Lot 1419: South Indian Hindu Temple Door
December 8, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: Tamil Nadu, Late 18th century AD. A teak temple or palace door with frame and pediment; the door comprising four rectangular panels connected by three horizontal bars reinforced with substantial bronze studs, the upper panels with painted detailing, brass knocker handle to the upper centre, iron hasp to the left edge; the frame with elaborately carved jambs of running foliage motifs with regardant peacocks or parrots and lotuses below, Gandharva figures among foliage above; frieze to the lintel with peacocks and tendrils below winged Kamadhenu cows and foliage flanking the median dais with standing Krishna playing a flute; pediment with lotus flowers and foliage, advancing Gandharva figures flanking temple with peacocks and foliage above. 175 kg, 220x130cm (86 1/2 x 51 1/4"). Property a Saffron Walden, Essex collector; thence by descent. The doorway to a temple, as well as a palace or house, symbolically marks the threshold through which someone passes from the outer unprotected space into the perceived sacred space of the shrine or home, both places where ritual purity was essential. Because of the sacred function of the doorways the doors themselves are often awe-inspiring in size and detail. They consist of a heavy double, or sometimes single, door set in a large detailed wooden frame, often with a decorative canopy above. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the carving of the frames took on ever more elaborate detail of a palatial grandeur. The installation of such doors, both in the temple and the home, involved rituals to ensure good fortune, and involved the placing of coins under the threshold and priests reciting prayers, along with offerings of food and flowers. After this the doorway was perceived as acting as a sacred area and rituals would be carried out on a daily basis to ensure that the beneficial powers continued. To act as guardians and to bestow blessings on those who passed through the doors, images of the gods are depicted in miniature shrines, surrounded by animals and mythological figures relevant to them. The most common deities are Lakshmi and Ganesh, the gods of prosperity, as wells as Shiva, one of the most popular deities of South India. In this example Krishna is shown standing with his legs crossed and playing a flute which identifies him under the name of Govinda, the celestial cow herd. Representations of Krishna are rare above doors from South India, and particularly in this form which is more common to the North. This image would mark the doors as belonging to a shrine dedicated to Krishna, or a palatial home where the owners were devotees of the god. Other imagery on this door is related to Krishna such as peacocks and parrots, birds that accompanied the god as he wandered the forest of Vrindavan playing his flute. The human-headed and winged cow is the goddess Kamadhenu, one of the precious items that appeared at the beginning of time when the gods churned the celestial oceans. She symbolises abundance, bountiful nature and the continuity of life.
Condition Report: Fine condition. Very rare.