The Jala Motif

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ANURAN DASGUPTA
Filtering the Gaze – The Jala Motif in the decorations of Apsara Bracket Figures in the Cennakesava temple of Belur
After the decline of the late Chalukyans, the northern region of their territory (present southern Karnataka) saw the rise of a dynasty named Hoysala. At their peak their kingdom spread from the Tungabhadra River in the north (Chalukyan territory) to the Kaveri river in the south (Chola territory). Originated in the hilly regions of western boundary of the Hassan district and southern Chikamangloor district in present Karnataka, the Hoysalas claimed to have descended from an ancestor named Sala who is supposed to have killed a lion in order to save a Jain ascetic—“Poy! Sala!”(Kill! Sala!) or Hoy Sala.1 The Hoysalas were great rulers who continued to hold their territory for around 3 centuries
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In my understanding, the jala motif around these Apsaras thus, apart from borrowing symbolism of the Salabhanjika and representing the Latagriha or a forest, also tries to recreate the role of the Jala itself in the domestic space. As mentioned above, the Jala provides privacy to the person in the inside of a chamber. The Nayika thus unaware of being watched engages in her activity without modesty in a complete state of Chittananda in which she is satisfied with her beauty and grace and is in a state of bliss. The artist thus provides the viewer a keyhole view into the private chambers of the Apsara. Similarly in other bracket figures, the artist uses the jala motif to bring the viewer inside the private chambers of the Apsara, by placing it in the far background of the female figure. The Jala Motifs, together with the attendant figures with the Main figure18, thus participate in the formation of Rasa through the medium of Aharyabhinaya i.e. the extraneous

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