A rare Nepalese icon from Janakpur.
Here, we are going to discuss this very image. This is the only image of its kind found in Nepal, although many examples of it are reported from India and Bangladesh. This is the so-called Mother-and-child image. I did take a measurement of this image then, but, unfortunately, I could not find it now. If I remember it well, it measured 12" in height, 18" in length, and 4" in breadth. If any one wants its measurement, he can always go to Janakpur Ram Manadir and get it for himself.
The characteristics of this image is as follows. A lady is shown reclining in a couch on the left, with her head supported on the palm of her left hand, that is propped on a pillow underneath. In her right hand she holds a lotus that bends over her legs stretched out horizontally. The left leg is bent at the knee giving it a triangular shape, while the right leg directly crosses it. A female in attendance is seated at the far-end of the legs, massaging her left foot, while the right one is placed on her lap. Another maid is standing a little away on the same side with a fan in her hand in a posture of whisking it. On the far end, beside the seated maid, one can see another maid holding flowers in her hands, and at the other end, one more maid is shown playing on a musical instrument. A small child, or a just-born baby, is lying down beside the reclining lady on the left side, with its face upturned, and feet resting on a lotus. On the back of the wall behind are figures of a Ganesa, a Karttikeya and a Sivalinga fixed in a yoni or jalahari, meaning a circle of stone with a hole at the centre. Underneath the couch several objects representing the items of upacaras, or show of hospitality, for the treatment of guests or strangers can be seen.
This image is a fine example of grace and beauty. The question is: what does it stand for? And what was the purpose behind its making? Such images are generally made with an object of propitiating. Generally, there are two different reasons for propitiating: one, to show respect, and the other done out of fear, which are both inherent traits of the human mind. The act of veneration is defined as dharma (Religion), while propitiation made out of fear is defined as abhicaras (incantation). If the former is deemed as a protector from different kinds of obstacles and impediments, the latter is regarded as a precise source to trigger such things. Outwardly, both of them may look similar. For a layman it is not easy to distinguish one from the other. Actually speaking, there are not only two but three objects of propitiation. They are called deva, devata and vyantara devata, meaning deity, divinity, and half-way between deity and divinity, respectively.
Those whom we regard as deities are viewed by the practitioners of the ancient Zoroastrian religion, Avestans, as being endowed with demonic power. They are also familiar with names such as Daeva or deva. Similar things in Greek are called Zeus, while in Latin they are called Deus. The sanatanists, following the traditional Hinduism, regard the Vedas as the authoritative text of the divine knowledge. According to the Rgveda (I, 34. II, I 39. II etc.), there are altogether 33 devas. Which particular devas, i.e., deities are counted among these 33, cannot immediately be ascertained, but, nonetheless, this had probably included Indra, Varuna and Mitra without doubt. The Taittireeya branch (I, 4, 10.I) of Yajurveda, however, counts only 11 devas which include Svarga, Prithvi and Antariksha (Heaven, Earth and Space). According to the Satapatha Brahmana (a Brahmana of Yajurveda compiled by the sage Yajnavalkya), the list of 33 devas includes Astavasu, Ekadasa Rudra, Dvadsaditya, Svarga and Prithvi. According to the later editions of the Hindu mythology (Pauranic Grantha), the number of devas sometimes, exceeding the earlier figure of 33, reaches not only 3300 thousand but 330 million, owing to which people by tradition are accustomed to speak of the devas as 330 million in number.
Gods who are not included in the category of the principal devas, but worshipped in and outside every house, are called devata. They are believed to act as a connecting link between the human and non-human powers. They may be deva, danava, yaksha, kinnara or any one. Devas also are occasionally found addressed as devata. It is indeed difficult to make a differentiation between deva and devata.
Symbolical figures that fall in the category of deva, devata and a-devata (non-divinity) are called vyantara devata. The local devatas worshipped by the people outside the urban areas are also called vyantara devata. The practice of worshipping vyantara devata started long before the commencement of the practice of worshipping devas. The primary cause may be attributed to the lingopasana (phallicism) of the Saiva cult. Most frequently, Lord Siva and his attendants together with their opponents are found represented in the form of vyantara devata. Evolution of vyantara devata appears to have taken place alongside the evolution of different sects. Symbols of vyantara devatas are available in greater number than those of the main devas. Such devatas are very popular with the Jaina sect.
The image discovered in Janakpur is marked by a beautiful style and posture. All the marks of pompousness, luxuriousness and aristocracy are discernible in it. All the articles for extending hospitality are depicted in it. What those articles of hospitality are need not be elaborated upon before the learned readers. But readers at large may not have the knowledge about them. According to Vettam Mani, the number of required articles for extending hospitality described in the sastras are sixteen. When described collectively, they are known as sodasopacara, meaning sixteen different articles of hospitality. These are listed as follows:
1. asana (seat)
2. padya (water for cleaning the feet)
3. arghya (water for drinking)
4. snaniya (bathing materials)
5. anulepana (anointments like oil, powder etc.)
6. dhupa (incense-like things for driving flying-insects)
7. dipa (lamp)
8. naivedya (food)
9. tambula (nuts and betel-leaves)
10. sitala jala (cold water)
11. vasana (cloth for wearing or change)
12. bhusana (ornaments)
13. malya (a garland of flowers)
14. gandha (perfumes)
15. acamaniyam (water for rinsing mouth)
16. sutalpa (comfortable sleeping bed)
The elaborate representation of such articles of hospitality in the image naturally suggests that it is not an ordinary sort of image, although for a common onlooker it is nothing but an image of a mother-and-child.
There are references to several kinds of devamatas in the Hindu and Buddhist literature involving a mother and child e.g., Krsna's mother Devaki, Krsna's foster-mother Yasoda, Buddhas's mother Mayadevi, protector of all children Hariti, Rama's mother Kausalya, and Ganesa's and Karttikeya's mother Parvati, to name but a few. Madonna is the general name given to such devamatas by scholars in the Western world. According to the Indian archaeologist, Dr. B.P. Sinha, the earliest representation of a mother-and-child was found at Jordan in the Jericho valley in the earliest Neolithic phase, going earlier than 6000 B.C. Simple representation of mother-and-child is associated with Hariti and Sitala as well. Examples of such representations are kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. One of them is cited as Mother-and-Child, while the other is named as Purnesvari. Details about them are given in the publication entitled In the Image of Man. The image of Purnesvari is dated in the Pala period around the late 12th Century. This image was discovered at Jayanagar in India near Janakpur (Nepal). The other image of Mother-and-Child is discovered from western India in the Solanki period in the 11th Century. As a matter of fact, these may only be the representations of Hariti or Sasthidevi, i.e Chaithidevi. The renowned iconologist Narendranath Bhattacharya has made several references in his celebrated work on "The Indian Mother Goddesses" about Sasthidevi, or Chaithidevi. According to him, Sasthi or Chaithidevi, is a protectress of children. Therefore, she is depicted with a child lying down on her side. The practice of offering worship to Sathi or Chaithidevi was started for the first time in the Vindhya Pradesh and spread therefrom to other places. It will be enough in this context to refer to Narendranath Bhattacharya's work, "The Indian Mother Goddesses", pp. 46, 47. Representation of such images of Hariti or Sasthidevi together with a child are illustrated in the "Early Sculptures of Nepal" by Lain Sing Bangdel who has, however, identified them as being those of Hariti. I too published in 1954 an article in "East and West" under the title of "Nepal's Sculptural Art: an illustration of a beautiful image of Mother-and-Child of the early Malla period of Nepal". This image was in the private collection of the noted dramatist of Nepal, the late Balakrishna Sama. Unlike all these representations, however, the one discovered from Janakpur, Kapilesvar, shows the lady reclining in her paryanka or couch with the child lying down on her side. All other representations of mother-and-child, including that of Hariti, show a lady clasping the child on one side or holding him on her lap in a sitting posture, but is never shown lying on the ground. This naturally goes to prove that our particular image in no case represents Hariti or Sasthidevi.
The above-noted work In the Image of Man, contains an illustration on page 119 of an image with the caption "Mother and Child" followed by a phrase, "Birth of Krishna" given in brackets with a question mark. This image better known as representing the birth of Krishna is now kept in the State Museum of Bhopal, India. It was discovered at Gauri in Madhya Pradesh in India and is dated back to the Kalchuri period in the 10th Century. It has got many similarities with our image from Janakpur except in respect of the attendant figures standing behind. The lady in Janakpur image does not bring her left hand forward, while the one from Bhopal has her hand stretched out to touch the elbow of the child. The lady in the Nepalese image holds a lotus, while the one in the above holds nothing in her hands. The lotus is held instead by the child in its hand. The child in the Nepalese image rests its feet on a lotus, while there is nothing to support the feet of the child in the above. Nothing is shown except a pillow near the head of the lady in the image from Janakpur, while the image kept in the State Museum in Bhopal have several expanded hoods of serpents near the head. Unfortunately, serpent hoods cannot be counted as some parts of the Bhopal image are broken. This image has no sivalinga while it finds depicted in the Nepalese image. Perhaps because of the absence of the sivalinga such images are described to be "the Birth of Krishna" by people like Sir Alexander Cunningham, (see page 102 of the Annual Report Volume 15 of the "Archaeological Survey of India" Delhi, India.) The famous scholar of Indian iconography, C. Shivaram Murti, has also made references to such images in his. booklet entitled A n Introduction to Archaeology. Amal Sircar has translated this work into Hindi. This image is described as Mother and Child in Plate No. 4. According to him, it dates back to the 11th century A.D. One can see it on display even today in the Indian Museum, Calcutta. A couple of years back, a similar sort of image was discovered from Bihar in India. The learned scholar, B.P. Sinha, has not only made reference to it, and the whole of the 14th chapter of his famous book, Archaelogy and Art of India on it. The chapter is based on "A Rare Image of Sadyojata". In comparison to the image discovered from Janakpur, this image from Bihar is not so striking. The Janakpur image shows the lady and the child lying down on the couch, while the image from Bihar shows both of them lying down in a thin sheet of bed-cloth on the ground. Other than the sivalinga fixed in a jalahari, nothing else is shown in this image. The sivalinga is shown in the foreground, whereas in the Nepalese image, it is seen on the back wall behind the lady.
R.C. Majumdar, in his famous work, The History of Bengal Volume I Hindu Period, has illustrated one image very much resembling ours from Nepal in Plate No. 18. Though he has given it the title of Mother and Child, nothing is discussed about it anywhere in the book. A similar beautiful image has been published by a scholar of Bangladesh, A. K.M. Shamsul Alam, in his book, "Sculptural Art of Bangladesh". He has entitled it "Mother-and-Child". Besides publishing the picture, (plate No.81), he also discusses a little about it. He states that he came across an inscription with 114 words in another similar image. This image is described as Gaurisila in the inscription. He has, therefore, come to the conclusion that the image is a representation of Gauri and Karttikeya. Discovered in Kosham city, Khetlal, Bogra, this image lies now registered under serial No. 24 of the Catalogue of the Mahasthangadh Museum. This image was studied for the first time by a scholar-officer, S.K. Bhattacharya, of the Department of Archaeology and Museum of Bangladesh. He has not, however, reproduced any illustration of this image in his work. The image illustrated in Plate No. 81 above also lies in the same Museum in Mahasthangadh. This image is not only beautiful but is also unbroken and in one piece. An illustration of it is published in The History of Bengal (Bengali Version) by R.D. Banerjee, on the reverse side of page 296, which, more or less, resembles the one discovered in Janakpur. However, no details about it are given there. Vincent A. Smith has also attached in his "A history of Fine Art in India and Ceylon", page 165, a sculpture of similar nature under the same Mother-and-Child name, but with no further details. Most probably, the image now lies in the Indian Museum in Calcutta.
Such images are not unknown in North Bengal or the ancient Varendri. According to a catalogue published by Bhattasali in 1914 there are no less than eight such images lying in the Varendra Research Society's Museum at Rajsahi alone. He further says that besides them a few more were lying on the foot of a banyan tree on the western bank of the Atreyi river in the Balurghat area of Dinajpur district, near the sub-division headquarters. He asserts that such images lying at the Indian Museum in Calcutta were all brought from Varendri.
The main characteristics of the image from Janakpur are already described. Although the main subject in all such images is more or less the same, there are one or two things to distinguish them from one another. It will, therefore, be desirable to present a comparative view of all these images for the convenience of the readers. The characteristics in general of such images are as follows. At the centre, a lady is seen lying down or reclining in a couch. In the image from Bihar, the couch is missing altogether. The lady generally holds a lotus in her right hand, but in the Bhopal image no lotus appears in the hand of the lady. As an exception the lotus is seen in the hand of the child. The elbow of the right hand is shown resting on the pillow while the head is supported on the palm of the right hand. The right thigh rests on the leaf one, while a maid appears massaging the foot at the very point where the left knee is bent in half. Such a style of massaging the foot is not seen everywhere. The right foot is generally placed on the lap of the maid, and the actual foot subjected to the massage is the left one. Lying down on the left-side of the lady is seen with the new-born baby or infant with its feet resting on a lotus. Apart from the maid engaged in massaging, representations of another maid waving a fan, and articles of upacaras for the lady's comfort can also be seen. Excepting the lady and the child, other things may or may not be present. On the wall behind, there is generally a sivalinga fixed in a yoni or jalahari, along with the tiny figures of a Ganesa and Karttikeya. Some images can also have navagrahas (nine planets) panel carved behind the couch. A sivalinga in a jalahari is common to all images discovered except one so far. This exceptional image is none other than the Mother-and-Child image kept in the Bhupal State Museum.
In 1929, when the catalogue of the Dacca Museum was being prepared, Nalini Kanta Bhattasali named it as a sculpture of Sadyojata. The term, Sadyojata, carries two sets of meanings, one referring to a just-born baby, and the other to the name of Siva. Bhattasali has given in his catalogue accounts of altogether ten such images-eight lying at the Rajsahi Museum, and one each at the Dacca Museum and at the Indian Museum in Calcutta. The catalogue was titled "Iconography of Buddhist and Brahmanical Sculptures in the Dacca Museum". We have already remarked that the figures and the objects represented in the sculptures vary in detail. The catalogue prepared by Bhattasali is an example in this respect.
The eight images which lie in the Rajsahi Museum have different settings, which are as follows:
1. Linga, Ganesa, Karttikeya and the Navagrahas (nine planets) included
2. Linga, Ganesa and Karttikeya only
3. Linga and Navagrahas only
4. Linga, Ganesa and Karttikeya
5. Linga, Ganesa and six sitting figures included
6. Linga, Ganesa, Karttikeya, Navagrahas, four sitting figures and seven kneeling figures at the bottom
7. Linga, Karttikeya and Ganesa only
8. Linga, Karttikeya and Ganesa only The image in the Dacca Museum includes the representations of:
9. Linga, Karttikeya and Ganesa The image in the Indian Museum includes the representations of:
10. Linga, Karttikeya, Ganesa and Navagrahas
It is necessary to consider the basis relying on which Bhattasali has identified the image to be that of Sadyojata. According to him, the presence of Karttikeya, Ganesa and Linga leaves no doubt whatsoever of this fact. He argues that the presence of the adult Karttikeya and Ganesa in most of these images is enough to make one conclude that the lady depicted here is none other than Parvati, the mother of Ganesa and Karttikeya. His point is that the feet of the child resting on a lotus is an indication of the fact that he represents a certain important divinity. As such, we can naturally conclude him to be a Sadyojata form of Lord Siva. But the main problem is that images of Sadyojata are nowhere described in any Tantras (treatises of magical or mystical formulas).
Some idea of Sadyojata can be had from the Lingapurana. But Bhattasali himself says that such a form or dhyana (meditative posture) of Siva has not been found anywhere. According to him, a verse in the Lingapurana, Chapter IX, (Vangavasi Edition, Bengali Translation, page 17), reads as follows:
"From Brahma in deep meditation sprang a child with white eyes and red nails, hands and body. When Brahma saw this Supreme Lord Sadyojata, he took him on his breast and again sank in deep meditation. When the knowledge came to him that this newly born babe was none other than the Supreme Lord he worshipped the child".
Bhattasali does say that "this does not account for the image of the lady by whom the child lies". But he further says that the presence of Karttikeya and Ganesa does suggest the figures of the child and lady to be those of Siva and Parvati. The presence of Navagrahas in some may suggest it to be a representation of Kalyana-Sundaramurti, depicting the marriage of Siva and Parvati. He also says that the Brahmapurana, (Chapter XXXVIII) has the following to say in connection with the marriage of Siva and Parvati. The divine story runs as follows:
"When the divine daughter of the Mountain came with a garland in her hands to the assembly of gods where she was to choose Siva as her husband, Siva, in order to test her, assumed the form of a child and was seen sleeping on the lap of the bride. She, however, perceived the child through meditation and came to know him to be none other than Siva himself. Then the daughter of the Mountain, glad to get the husband that her heart desired, returned from the assembly, holding the child against her breast".
Apart from this, Bhattasali came across, in a similar sort of image, an inscription which read vamsonatha-lalita. On the strength of it he concluded that this image is a variety of vaivahika image connected with the marriage of Siva and Parvati. So all such images which had so long been known to be those of the mother and child, were renamed Sadyojata after Bhattasali.
The image from Janakpur is also called a Sadyojata by scholars these days. However, this identification needs to be challenged. According to B.P. Sinha, an archaeological expert of India, only the five-faced image of Siva is called Sadyojata. Siva is known by names such as pancasira, pancanan, pancavaktra or panchamukha, meaning `having five heads, five faces, five mouths', respectively. Of these the east-face is called the Sadyojata. Of the ten hands of the five-faced (pancamukhi) Mahadeva or Siva, the east-facing Sadyojata holds an akshamala (a rosary of imperishable nature) and a kamandalu (waterpot). Pancamukha Siva is also called pancapaksa-murti, representing Brahama, Visnu, Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva, and is called by the name of Mahadeva. The image from Janakpur is far from being this type. So we are required to make a further deliberation on it.
According to the treatise named "Aparajitaprccha", Sadya Siva is also counted among eleven Rudras, Ekadasa-tudra.
Sadyo Vamoghora tatpurusavis'ana eva ca/ Mrtyunjaysca vijayahkiranaksohghorastrakah// Srkanthasca mahadevo rudrascaikadasasmrtah/ -Aparajitaprccha 112/1-2
These eleven names of Rudra include Sadya, Vama, Aghora, Tatpurusa, Isana, Mrtynnjaya, Vijaya, Kiranaksa, Aghorostraka, Srkantha and Mahadeva. The name that comes first of all in it is that of Sadya or Sadyojata.
The concept of Dvadasa Siva of Ekadasarudra is based mainly on the concept of Pancamukha Siva. References to five faces of Siva are contained in the "Visnudharmottarapurana", which, accordingly, are Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusa and Isana.
Sadyojatam vamadevamaghoram (ca) mahabhujah/ tatha tatpurusam jneyamisanam pancamammukham// -Visnudharmottara 3/48/1
Five different things are represented by these five faces of Siva (Pancamukha). Sadyojata represents the earth; Vamdeva, water; Aghora, the light, i.e., power or energy; Tatpurusa, air, and Isana, which lies on the top, represents the sky.
Sadyojatam mahi prokta vamadeva tathajalam/ tejastvaghoram vikhyatam vayu tatpurusam matam// isanam ca tathakasamurdhvastham pancamam mukham/ -Visnudharmottara 3/48/3
The right hand of Sadyojata is described as granting boon (varada) and the left hand, granting assurance, protection or safety (abhaya) in the preface to Rupamandana by Dr. Balram Srivastava. Terms like saumya (gentle and beautiful), trinetra (three-eyed), suklavastra (white cloth), mala (chaplet), kundala (large rings worn on the ears), jata (clotted hair) and balendu (new moon) are some other details of his epithets.
The "Rupamandana" by Sutradhara Mandana opens the fourteenth chapter with instructions for carving the image of Sadyojata Siva in the following manner:
suklamvaradharam devam suklamalyanulepanam/ jatabhara yutam kuryad balendukrtasekharam// -Rupamandana 4/1
While carving an image of Siva, it should be made wearing white clothes, putting on white chaplet, anointed with white paste (of sandalwood), having clotted hair, and decorated with the new moon.
Besides, it is also instructed that the image of Sadyojata should be made with three eyes, a gentle and beautiful face, large rings on both the ears, one hand arranged in the form of granting a request or boon, and the other, in the act of giving assurance or protection from fear.
trilocanam saumyamukhamkundalabhyamalankrtam/ sadyojatam mahotsaham varadabhaya paninam// -Rupamandana 4/2
In this light, the image from Janakpur Kapilesvar can in no condition be identified with that of the Sadyojata Siva. Since there is a Sivalinga represented on the wall behind the lady, there can, however, be no doubt about the connection of this image with Siva. We have already made references to the statement by Bhattasali that a number of such images were discovered on the banks of the river Atreyi. It will not be difficult to establish a link between the sage Atri and the river Atreyi. It was here that the birth of Siva in his other form had taken place. This was in the form of sage Durvasa. Durvasa was born as a son to the sage Atri and Anusuya. A reference to it is found in the "Visnupurana", which runs as follows:
anasuyatathaivatrejajne niskalmasan sutan/ somam durvasasam caiva dattatreyam ca yoginam// -Visnupurana 1/10/8,9
The Sanskrit classical drama Shakuntal, written by the great poet, Kalidas, refers to Anasuya as a friend of Shakuntala, who was also fostered by the great saint, Kanva. One of the twenty-four daughters of Dakshaprajapati has also been called Anasuya. Anasuya is also described as the daughter of Kardama and Devahuti. What we are concerned with here is her identity as the wife of the sage, Atri. Pleased with her penance, Brahama, Visnu and Mahesa, that is, Siva, agreed to be born to Anasuya as her sons in the forms of the Moon, Dattatreya and Durvasa, respectively. Anasuya is highly acclaimed in the Hindu mythology as a faithful wife.
As the Hindu mythology says, the sage Atri, in collaboration with Anasuya, had performed religious rites on the Rikshaparvat mount in honour of Brahma, Visnu and Mahadeva, as a result of which Visnu was born to Anasuya in the form of Dattatreya, Brahma, in the form of Soma, and Siva, in the form of Durvasa. Next it is necessary to think where the mount, Rikshaparavat, is located.
According to the Brahmanda (Chapter 85) and the Skanda Purana, (Reva Section, Chapter 4), the place of origin of the rivers Narmada and Sona lies in the area between the Vindhya mountain and the Bay of Bengal. This place is the location of the Rikshaparvat. Thus, Rikshaparvat, where sage Atri and his wife had performed penance, seems to have lain between Bengal and the Vindhyas. This story of the birth of Siva as Durvasa originated where the image was first reported from. This image of the new-born baby or Sadoyjata from Janakpur, therefore, could be none other than a representation of Siva in the form of Durvasa. The lady lying down on the couch in the some way should be the image of Anasuya in my opinion.
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|Author:||Sharma, Janak Lal|
|Publication:||Contributions to Nepalese Studies|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2000|
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