Monday, 1 January 2018


( Note : All connecting images, mentioned as Plates to this mystery is provided towards the end of this article , for reference ) 


The Hayagriva Madhava temple is one of the important centres for Vaishnavism. Instead of large numbers of Saivite temple, Vishnu temple is found in limited numbers throughout Assam. Though, the practice of religion is main purpose of this temple but there is a great contribution towards the sculptural activities because numerous images are inscribed on the temple walls. The Vaishnavism plays a predominant role in sculpting of the images in this temple.

The temple exists on a hilly place which located at Hajo nearby Guwahati. The hilly place is known as the Manikuta parbat where a flight of stone steps lead to the temple campus. The original structure of the temple does not exist because the temple was reconstructed many times. It was not knovm when the original temple building was built but it was estimated that the temple was built during the Pala period of 10th-12th century A. D (Goswami, 1984). But stylistic features of some sculptures go back to a very early period of art of India.

Since, the temple was reconstructed; therefore, different artistic styles were captured in the temple art. It was important to note that Hajo was amalgamations of different religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam which influenced on the sculptures of this temple. Though, Vaishnavism greatly influenced the temple but Buddhism was one of the influential factors of this site.

Architecturally, the temple consists of four parts such as math, jagmohan, nat mandir and bhaga ghar. In the vertical elevation, the temple is consisted with three parts namely basement, middle portion, and sikhara. The inscription which was fixed on the temple wall, informed that the temple was reconstructed during the time of Koch emperor, Raghu Deb in 1583 A. D (1906).

Historical Background of Hayagriva Madhava Temple:

The Hayagriva Madhava temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. But there is a big controversy regarding the original temple building saying that it belonged to Buddhism and Buddha died at this place. According to this believe, a great number of Buddhist pilgrimages from neighboured states like Sikkim, Bhutan, Tibet, China etc still visit the Hayagriva Madhava temple in every year.

The Buddhist people believe that in early time, a great Caitya was constructed over the cremated relics of Buddha's body at the place of Hayagriva Madhava temple. There are many literary references given by many scholars regarding this matter. The existing ruins prove that the place is a centre for worshiping of various deities like Surya, Vishnu, Buddha and the deities of Tantric-Buddhist affiliation (Choudhury, 1988). In this context, Dalton remarked that the middle image of sanctum of the temple was of Buddha which was called Madhava by Brahmans. Further he states, "It’s modern votaries have, to conceal mutilation, given it a pair of silver goggle-eyes and a hooked, gilt or silvered nose, and the form is concealed from view by cloths and chaplets of followers but remove these, and there is no doubt of the image having been intended for the ruler of all, the propitious, the asylum of clemency, the all-wise, the lotus-eyes, the comprehensive Buddha"'(1855).

It was assumed that the main image of sanctum was originally of Lord Buddha. In latter period, the image had unfortunate mutilated and transformed into an image of Hayagriva Madhava (Talukder, 1957). Regarding this matter, Sridhara Babu points out, "The Hayagriva Madhava figure is in fact a Buddha image, broken and mutilated, was fitted with an artificial horse-head said to be made of a compound of eight substances of which resin is the main and was kept tied with a piece of polished wood, that can be seen from a distance and with a white cloak over the body there is no means of verifying this because observers are not allowed to peep into it. It is narrated by some people whenever the artificial part of the image gets damaged it is secretly repaired by the priests at night" (1990). 

According to Kakati, "There is no doubt that when the temple was rebuilt the site contained extensive remains of an older temple the antiquity of which cannot now be properly estimated. It is also possible that some of the images mounted on the body of the temple were recovered from the older ruins." (1935). In this context, Shakespear also mentioned, ''At Hajo, once an important centre of Moghul rule, and opposite Guwahati, six or seven miles from the river, on a wood hill 300 feet high, stands a remarkable and celebrated temple containing a large image of Buddha six feet high and cut from a solid block of black stone''(1914).

Waddell mentioned that Assam contained a most holy place of Buddhist pilgrimage which was called 'Tsam-cho-dun' and next one great temple was the most holy spot for Buddhism at Buddh-Gaya (1895). According to Jaschke's Tibetan dictionary, the word 'rtsa-mcog-(gron) means a town in west Assam, Kamrupa where Buddha died (1881). This statement was also given on the authority of the Gaylrabs, a vernacular history of Tibet. Cosma de Koros, a Hungarian traveller mentioned that the death of Shakhya occurred in Assam near by the city of Kusa or Kamrupa (1895). Waddell remarked, "With their extremely scanty knowledge of Indian geography, the Lamas evidently concluded that this, 'town of Sal-Kusa' was 'the town of Kusa,' where Buddha entered into Nirvana between the two Sal trees.'' (1895). It is interesting to note that a pair of Sal tree existed nearby the Hayagriva Madhava temple, but at present, the Sal trees have destroyed due to natural calamities.

Numerous references showed that in ancient time, the Buddhism was strongly prominent at the place of Hajo including Hayagriva Madhava temple. A Buddhist historian of 16"' century, Taranath mentioned that two Buddhists preachers like Dhitika and Asvabhava were made responsible for spreading the Buddhism in Kamrupa. During the time of Dhitika, a great Caitya was established in Kamrupa (1970). In later period, this Caitya was identified as the original Hayagriva Madhava temple. According to Choudhury, some relics of Buddha were brought to Assam and were enshrined probably at Kamakhya temple where a relic casket of stone had found and contained some ashes of Buddha, over which a Stupa or Caitya was constructed or at Hajo (1987).

It was noted that Hiuen Tsang who was a Chinese Buddhist scholar of 7th century visited Kamrupa and he did not mention about the establishment of any Stupa or Caitya in Kamrupa. He remarked that people of Kamrupa did not faith in Buddhism but only a few Buddhist people performed their devotional rites secretly (1933). In addition, Waddell remarked, ''Any Caitya or other Buddhist building would seem to have been subsequent to the 7''' century A.D; and in all probability marked a site visited by the great founder of Lamaism, St. Padmasambhava, or one of his disciples."' (1895). Besides, it was thought that some of the temple ruins were undoubted Buddhist origin (Shakespear, 1914). On the contrary some scholars provide other views. Choudhury mentioned that Buddhism was not accepted by the people of old Assam (1985).

In 7th century A. D, Hayagriva Madhava temple was already a well established centre of Vishnu worship. The image of Hayagriva worship was introduced at Hajo from the 3rd-4th century A. D. From the 4th century A. D onwards there was no chance of construction of any Buddhist monastery at the site of Hayagriva Madhava temple. Therefore, the Caitya might be constructed prior to that period. During the period of 3rd-4th century A. D, Brahmanism revived under the patronage of the Gupta ruler, at that time, the Buddhist Caitya of Hajo certainly converted into a Hindu temple where the idol of Hayagriva Madhava was installed as the worshiping deity of the temple (Das, 1999). Different references as well as authentic visual evidences of the temple ruins showed that undoubtedly a Stupa or Caitya of Buddhism existed before erecting any Hindu temple at this place. In some circumstances, the Buddhist edifice was transformed to the temple of Hinduism.

At present, the Hayagriva Madhava temple is a well established Vishnu worshiping centre of Vaishnavaism. Available references had been found in the history of Assam regarding the worship of Vishnu and his various incarnations. In addition, "Vaishnavism was established in Assam at a time when Surya worship and Brahamanical culture made considerable progress" (Choudhury, 1987). Before introduction of Buddhism, the people of Kamrupa were the worshipper of Sun (1970). Mythical king of Kamrupa, Naraka traced his descent from the Boar incarnation of Vishnu. Bana in his Harsacarita stated that Bhaskaravarman was as a descendant of the Vaishnava family. The Badaganga rock inscription (554 A. D) was the first epigraphic record where the king Bhutivarman was compared with Vishnu. Vaishnavism was started in Assam in early mediaeval period and attained popularity during the period between 10th and 12th century A. D. The inscription of Dharmapala (12"' century A. D) mentioned about the worship of Vishnu's incarnation (Barua, 1986). Large numbers of Vishnu images from Assam belonged to the period ranging from lOth century to 12th century A. D. Before 8th century A. D, the images of Vishnu cults were very rare in Assam (Choudhury, 1985). Therefore different literary references showed that Vaishnavism strongly prevailed in Assam since the ancient time.

Origin of Hayagriva Form:

Lord Vishnu is worshiped in the form of Hayagriva which is installed in the garbhagriha in the Hayagriva Madhava temple. The Hayagriva is a composite form of the horse and man. In the visual representation, the face is of horse's head while the body part is of man. Hayagriva is one of the incarnations of Lord  Vishnu. The concept of Hayagriva form was developed since the very earliest time. In the Vedic period, Vishnu is compared with solar deity. According to mythological concept, the horse is associated with Sun God as vehicle. The Hayagriva form is not included within the ten well known incarnations of Vishnu.

Different ancient texts described about the Hayagriva form of Vishnu.

There were many legends that how Vishnu assumed the horse headed form which were described in numbers of ancient texts such as the Mahabharata, Agni Purana, Mastya Purana, Vishnu Purana, Harivamsa Purana, Markandeya Purana, Kalika Purana, Yogini Tantra etc.

The Mahabharata (Santi Parva, chapter 349) mentions about the origin of Hayagriva form of Vishnu. According to the account. Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Hayagriva to recover the Vedas from the possession of two demons. It was described that Lord Brahma was seated on a thousand petals lotus creating the Vedas while Vishnu was sleeping. At that time, two demons named Madhu and Kaitabha noticed that Brahma was creating the Vedas. They became jealous to see the Vedas and wanted to steal the Vedas. Immediately, the demons stole the Vedas and went down to the Rasatala where they kept the stolen Vedas.

Brahma became very much angry with them and worried about the Vedas because Vedas were regarded as the eyes of wisdom of Brahma. He requested to Vishnu to recover the Vedas. With the help of divine power, Vishnu assumed a new form which was a horse headed form to recover the Vedas. Assuming the Hayagriva form, Vishnu went to the Rasatala and started to recite the Vedic hymns with his melodious voice. The demons were attracted to the sweet recitation and searched the source of the melodious voice. Immediately Vishnu took the chance to recover the Vedas and returned to Brahma. The demons saw that Vedas were taken by Vishnu and they were ready to fight with Vishnu. Finally, Vishnu killed them and again slept in the north-east comer of the great sea in his Hayagriva form. The Mastya Purana (chapter 53) recorded another version that when the world was burnt down in a great dissolution, Vishnu in the form of a horse recompiled the Vedas, Vedangas, Nyaya-Vistara, Mimamsa and Dharmashastra. The Kalika Purana of 11th century A. D provided detailed description about the Hayagriva form on the Manikuta hill. Purana stated that after killing the demon, Jvarasura, Lord Vishnu in his Hayagriva form stayed at Manikuta hill for the good of all men, Gods and demons and he took a recovery bath nearby in a lake which was known as ''apunarhhavd' (Sridhara Babu, 1990).

The Yogini Tantra of 14th century A. D described another legend of origin of the Hayagriva Madhava temple. According to legend, the king of Orissa, Indradyumna wanted to make a perfect statue of Lord Vishnu and roamed the whole World but did not find out. Vishnu was satisfied for his attitude and appeared before him in his dream. Vishnu advised him that in early morning, one big tree would come floating by seashore and king would have to cut into seven pieces for making the idol. According to his dream, king found the tree on the seashore and cut the tree into seven pieces. He made seven idols from the tree and established in different parts of the country. Legend said that the main part of the tree was established in Orissa known as Jagannath temple and another idol which was brought over to Manikuta hill was established in Hayagriva Madhava temple (Das, 1999).

According to the temple legend of Hayagriva Madhava temple, before establishing the temple, once a sage named Urba, the son of Bhrigumoni, came to the Manikuta hillock for the meditation. Jvarasura and Hayasura who were the leaders of the demon's group lived at this hillock. Therefore, Urba was disturbed by the demons. The sage prayed to Lord Vishnu for save him from the demon's group. Then Vishnu appeared in front of him and killed the demon's group. When Vishnu was ready to kill Hayasura then the demon prayed to Lord that he wanted to stay with him at this place. Vishnu fulfilled the Demon's request, therefore, the temple was known as Hayagriva Madhava temple.

Numerous references show that a great number of legends are developed behind the Hayagriva Madhava temple. Some legends are recorded in the numbers of ancient texts and some are passed verbally through the generation by generation.

A good number of ancient texts mentioned about the iconographic representation of the Hayagriva image. According to Kalika Purana, Hayagriva is seated on a white lotus. He is decorated with the earrings and all kinds of other ornaments; he has four arms performing the postures of granting boon and providing safety while other hands hold a white lotus and a book. Sometimes, Hayagriva associates with mount Garuda (Shastri, 1994).

Sculptures of Hayagriva Madhava Temple:

The exterior walls of the garbhagriha contain most of the images, which are moulded and chiseled in the form of divinities, foliage, fauna, abstract geometrical ornament etc. Some of the images of elegant carvings which are of original temple building are lying scattered within the temple campus. Five numbers of images of different sizes which are locally called as Bura Madhava, Hayagriva Madhava, Govinda Madhava, Basudeva and Garuda are installed in the garbhagriha which is like a cave. All the images are covered with garland of tulsi and cloth for the religious prohibition; therefore, it is impossible to observe the images. Only the heads of the images are visible. Among them, the image of Bura Madhava is of gigantic size. A carved door frame of stone which reveals the influence of Gupta art is placed in the sanctum of the temple because floral designs with makara figures which are depicted on the door frame carry the characteristic features of the Gupta art. The main attractive part of the temple is the temple plinth where numerous sculptures of elephant are placed. The nature of the elephants shows that they support the whole superstructure of the temple. This plinth moulding is the original part of temple building which is thought to be the original part of a Buddhist shrine. It was observed that the old sculptural materials were used with the new materials for the reconstruction of the temple. Besides, numbers of old sculptural pieces of gigantic sizes are lying scattered within the temple campus. The sculptures of Hayagriva Madhava temple are divided into four parts,

Religious Sculptures:

Religious sculptures play a vital role in the Hayagriva Madhava temple. Among the religious sculptures, the images of different Gods and Goddesses occupy the conspicuous position in the sculptural art of Hayagriva Madhava temple. The religious images are the twelfth incarnations of Vishnu, eight guardian deities called Dikpalakas, Sakti image etc. Besides these images, some narrative scenes from the Indian epics are enshrined in the temple art. Though, a small group of sculptures are inscribed on the interior walls of the temple but most of the sculptures are carved out on the external walls of the temple building.

It is important to note that male image is depicted in large numbers while females are depicted in limited numbers. In addition, Waddell mentions, "The upper walls are covered with sculptural figures nearly life size. The ten avatars of Vishnu are represented with Buddha as the ninth. The remaining figures are of a rather nondescript character but they are mostly male " (1895). The trident is held by the most of the sculptured figures on the walls, and Sakti rites are more pronounced here, than in any other place in northern India (1895).

Incarnations of Vishnu:

Mythologies play a great role in the depictions of various images because the sculptural representations of Vishnu's twelfth incarnations which are inscribed on the outer wall of the garbhagriha reveal the various myths. Vishnu's well known ten incarnations are the Matsya avatara, Kurmma avatara, Varaha avatara, Narasimha avatara, Vamana avatara, Parasurama, Rama, Balarama, Buddha and Kalki. Some ancient texts such as Mahabharata, Gita Govinda, Brihat Samhita, Matsya Purana, Vishnudharmottara Purana etc described about the visual representations of various incarnations of Vishnu.

In the visual representation of Vishnu, he holds a sankha symbolizes as eternal Space; chakra symbolizes as eternal Time; gada, symbolizes as eternal Law and the unfailing punishment, consequent on its breach; padma symbolizes as the ever renewing creation and its beauty and freshness. The vehicle of Vishnu is Garuda which is the composite forms of bird and man. He is accompanied by two wives namely Saraswati and Lakshmi (BhattasaH, 1929). It is notable that in the Hayagriva Madhava temple, all the incarnations are not visible due to the reconstruction.

According to mythology, Lord Vishnu is the second member of the Hindu and he assumed many incarnations to protect the World. The images of Vishnu show the characteristic styles of the different periods.

Varaha Avatara:

The Varaha avatara, which is also called as Boar incarnation is the third incarnation of Vishnu. This image is the composite form of man and boar and is well executed on the outer wall of the garbhagriha of the temple (Plate 8.2).

According to mythology, Vishnu assumed the form of Varaha to save the earth Goddess, Prithivi from the clutches of the demon Hiranyaksha. During the Great flood, the earth disappeared under water. At that moment, Vishnu took the form of a boar diving into the deep water, slew the demon after a long struggle and rescued the earth from deep water (Gupte, 1972).

This incarnation has special significant regarding the ancient Assam because there is a popular legend which is found in the epigraphic records that Naraka, the founder of mythical line of emperors of Assam is described as the son of Vishnu in his Varaha form (Barpujari, 1990). Descriptions of several forms of Varaha avatara are found in the Puranas as well as in Agamas.

The Boar incarnation of this temple is of four handed image, which is represented in standing posture with the nature of Vishnu of which usual attributes such as the sankha, chakra, gada, padma are given. For the beautification of image, the headgear, ear ornaments, necklace, armlet and wrist ornaments are
given. His dhoti extends up to the knee where a fold is shown in the middle part of dhoti. The image is carved out in low relief The characteristic feature indicates that the image is done in later period.

Narasimha Avatara:

The Narasimha avatara who is the fourth incarnation of Vishnu is found on the temple wall (Plate 8.3). He is also called man-lion incarnation. The carving nature of the image indicates that the image is of original temple building. This is a composite form of man and lion. The image creates a horrible look in visual representation. The Vedic literature also mentioned about this incarnation. Ancient texts like Mahavarata, Agni Purana, Matsya Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana etc mentioned about this incarnation. Mythology informed that Vishnu assumed this composite form to kill Hiranyakasipu who was a demon. According to Vishnu Purana, Hiranyakasipu acquired a boon from Brahma that nobody could kill him including all human, animal or any divine power. He also would not be killed either in heaven or on earth, neither in night nor in day. Acquiring the boon, demon became powerful even he did not any care to God. Demon had a son named Prahlada who was the follower of Lord Vishnu; therefore, demon disliked his son because of this cause and he tortured Prahlada. To kill the demon, Vishnu assumed the form of a Man-lion incarnation with his nails tore the belly of the demon open. 

According to Bhagavata Purana, to find out Vishnu, Hiranyakasipu hit a pillar and broke the pillar, Vishnu in the form of a being a half-man and half-lion came out from the pillar and tore the stomach of the demon open (Bhatnagar, 1994-1995). On the basis of this legend. Artist tried to visualize the sculptural depiction of the Narasimha avatara.

The ancient texts recorded about the iconographic norms of the image of Narasimha. According to the authority, the figure of Narasimha is sculpted with eight hands; two of them are employed in tearing open the belly of Hiranyakasipu, while four others carry the sankha, the chakra, the gada, and the padma. The remaining two hold the drawn out entrails of Hiranyakasipu garland-wise (Rao, 1914). The Matsya Purana also described about this image, 'The God and demon should be shown fighting with their legs interlocked; the former should appear as being repeatedly attacked by the tired demon who should be shown as holding a sword and a shield' (Banerjea, 1956).

The image of Narasimha is shown with four handed and illustrated with the terrific aspect. The whole composition is able to create a horror atmosphere. In the visual representation, the upper hands of the image are engaged in bringing out the entrails from the stomach of the demon where lower hands are busy in tearing out the stomach of Hiranyakasipu. To show the terrific aspect, the artist carved teeth sharply which distinctly visible in the mouth of the man-lion incarnation. He is given all the necessary ornaments where his headdress is of the unique representation.


An image is identified as Ram who is one of the important incarnations of Vishnu and found on the outer wall of the temple (Plate 8.4). He is the hero of the great epic Ramayana. He appeared for the purpose of destroying the demon Ravana. Rama is the popular deity in the Northern India. In the iconographic representation, it is described that Rama is always depicted with two hands. His emblems are the arrow and the bow in his hands. Rama is illustrated as standing image of the tribhanga variety. The image is beautified with different ornaments (Rao, 1914).

The figure of Rama of the Hayagriva Madhava temple is found in standing posture. Here, the figure adorns different ornaments and is depicted a headgear on his head. He holds bow and arrow in his hands where the holder of arrows is shown on his back side. His lower garment is extended up to the knees. This figure's characteristic feature reveals that the image is done in later period.


The Kalki avatara which is the last incarnation of Lord Vishnu is visualized on the exterior wall of the temple (Plate 8.5). According to mythology, it was thought that Kalki avatara appeared at the end of the Kali-yuga or the present Dark Age. The image of Kalki avatara is seated on a white horse, with a drawn blazing like a comet, for the final destruction of the wicked, the renovation of creation, and the restoration of purity (Dowson, 1888). The Vishnu Purana described about this incarnation. According to this authority, ""Thus, when ceremonies based upon the Vedas and the institutes of the sacred law shall have nearly ceased, and the end of Kali-yuga will approach, a portion of that divine being, who is the creator of the whole universe, the protector of all removable and moveable beings, M>ho is identical with Brahma and all created beings, shall incarnate himself on earth. He will be born as Kalki" (Rao, 1914). Numbers of iconographic texts explained about the visual representation of Kalki avatara.

According to Vishnudharmottara Purana, "A powerful man angry in mood, riding on horseback with a sword in his raised hand" (Banerjea, 1956). The Kalki image of Hayagriva Madhava temple is of two handed and seated on an ornamented horse. The deity holds sword in his right hand while other hand holds the bridle of the horse.

Sculptures of Dikpalakas:

A group of deities which are called as Dikpalakas is illustrated in the temple art. According to Hindu mythology, the Dikpalakas contain eight members of deities who are the guardian deities of the Universe and each deity controls each side of the universe. The concept of guardian deities was developed from the Vedic time. The guardian deities are Indra (the Lord of the east), Agni (the Lord of the south-east), Yama (of the south), Nirruti (of the south-west), Varuna(of the west), Vayu (of the north-west), Kubera (of the north) and Isana (north-east) (Rao, 1914). The exterior walls of the Hayagriva Madhava temple display almost all the guardian deities.

The image of Indra which is displayed on the exterior walls of the Hayagriva Madhava temple is the first guardian deity. He is accepted as the guardian deity of the eastern side of the universe (Plate 8.6). During the Vedic period, he was the most popular deity. He was described as the atmospheric deity; therefore he governed the weather and dispensed the rain. This image was also famous for Buddhist art. In the sculptural art, the image of Indra is found in different poses such as the meditative mood or dancing mood or warrior. The sculpture of Indra in the Hayagriva Madhava temple is shown in fighting mood. In the visual representation, Indra rides on an elephant which name is Airavata and attacks a demon with his thunderbolt. In the composition, the Airavata is fully ornamented like a royal animal carved in realistic manner. In the background of the composition, a tree of realistic representation is depicted. Artists tried to create a natural atmosphere depicting the tree motif in the background scene while the whole scene gives a lifelike expression.


An image is identified as Agni who is God of fire inscribed on the outer wall of the garbhagriha of the temple (Plate 8.7). He is the Lord of south-east comer of the universe. Most of the hymns were composed addressing to God Agni. In addition, '''Agni is the lord, protector, king of men. He is the lord of the house, dM'elling in every abode. He is a guest in every home; he despises no man, he lives in every family. He is therefore considered as a mediator between Gods and men, and as a witness of their actions; hence to the present day he is worshipped and his blessing sought on all solemn occasions as at marriage, death." (Wilkins, 1882). According to Vedic concept, he was illustrated as a red man having three legs, seven arms, dark eyes, eye-brows and hair. He adorns a Brahamanical thread and a garland of fi-uit and Ram was his vehicle. Flames of fire come out from his mouth and seven streams of glory radiated from his body (Wilkins, 1882).

According to Vishnudharmottara Purana, Agni holds the flames of fire and the trisula. The left hand holds the aksamala while the remaining left hand embraces his wife Svaha. The image has four sharp tusks and his chariot is driven by four parrots having a banner which is like smoke and Vayu is the driver of his chariot. When consort is depicted with him then Agni carries a ratna patra. The Agamic texts provide another version of this deity whom is represented as four or two handed. When he is depicted as four handed then his attribute are the varada pose, abhaya, pose, sruk and sakti. But when he is shown as two handed then the image's emblems are the sruk and sakti respectively (Rao, 1914). The image of Agni in the Hayagriva Madhava temple is depicted as two handed. He is seated on back side of his vehicle, ram. The right hand holds a sakti while the left hand carries a ratna patra. Artist tried to follow the iconographic norms in depicting the image. Besides, the sculptor tried to give motion on the running ram.


An image of Yama is carved out on the outer wall of the Hayagriva Madhava temple and is regarded as the Lord of south direction of the universe (Plate 8.8). He is the judge of men of unseen world. In the Vedic period, he was also accepted as God of dead. According to Rig Veda, Yama was represented as having anything to do with the punishment of the wicked (Wilkins, 1882).

According to Padma Purana, ''Yama fulfils the office of the judge of the dead, as well as sovereign of the damned; all that die appearing before him, and being confronted with Chitragupta the recorder, by whom their actions have been registered. The virtuous are then conveyed to Swarga (Indra 's heaven), whilst the wicked are driven to the different regions of Naraka (hell)" (Wilkins, 1882). Besides, the Vishnu Purana mentioned, "All men at the end of their existence (life) become slaves to the power of Yama, by whom they are sentenced to painful punishments'" (Wilkins, 1882). Further, it is stated that if Vishnu is worshiped in his many incarnations, people can be free from Yama's authority. According to Vedic concept, the image of Yama is presented as a green man while the garment is of red colour. The figure has a crown and flower on his head. He is given a club as attribute and the buffalo is vehicle of him (Wilkins, 1882).

The image of Yama of Hayagriva Madhava temple is presented as one of the guardian deities of the south. Here, the figure of Yama is seated on back side of the Buffalo which is fully ornamented. The animal is depicted in profile view while Yama is shown in frontal view. His two hands hold a club and the rounded belly is shown prominently. A small piece of cloth which is given on his upper body part is flying on his back sides. Depicting the cloths on his back sides, artist tried to give lifelike atmosphere.


A sculptural image of Varuna is found in the Hayagriva Madhava temple (Plate 8.9). Instead of depicting on the temple wall, the image is found as scattered sculpture within the temple campus because the original temple is reconstructed. The figure of Varuna which is original image of the temple building is given high artistic qualities.

Varuna is the guardian deity of the west and is the Lord of rain, water and sea. He came to be focused as deity during the Vedic time and was sovereign ruler of the universe. The visual representation of Varuna is of white colour and wears yellow garment which gives a pacific look. The figure adorns karandamukuta, sacred thread along with other ornaments. The fish or makara or crocodile is the vehicle of him. When he is represented as two handed, his emblems are the varada pose and pasa while he is depicted as four handed, the emblems are the varada pose, pasa, snake and kamandalu respectively. In the sculptural representation, Varuna is associated with the figure of Ganga and Yamuna (Rao, 1914).

The image of Varuna of this temple is illustrated as seated figure in meditative mood on a makara figure. The carving nature of Varuna is completely different from other images because the image of Varuna is carved out smoothly. It is noteworthy that the image of Varuna along with makara figure is showed in frontal view on a single stone block. Therefore, both the figures come out from the stone slab. It is rare depiction that most of the vehicles of divine images are illustrated as side view; on the contrary, makara is represented as frontal view.

Depicting this image, artist tried to give a new perspective in the sculptural art of Hayagriva Madhava temple. He is fially ornamented with a tall conical headgear. He is two handed image carrying an aksamala in his right hand and a snake in the left hand.


Vayu who is God of wind is the important guardian deity of the north-west inscribed on the outer wall of the Hayagriva Madhava temple (Plate 8.10). In the Veda, he was often associated with Indra because sometime, Vayu performed being a charioteer of the car of Indra. According to Vedic concept, three Gods connected to each other such as Agni is placed in the earth, Vayu or Indra is placed in the air and Surya is placed in the heaven. In the Mahabharata, he is the father of Bhim and Hanumana. The Purana also mentioned him as the son of Aditi. In the iconographic representation, Vayu is a white man riding upon a deer (Wilkins, 1882).

The image of Vayu of this temple is shown seated on back of a deer which is prescribed in different texts. The two handed Vayu holds a tree in his right hand while a banner is depicted in the left hand. Here, the deer is seemed to be running and Vayu is fully involved in motion. A natural atmospheric situation is created by the image of Vayu. The artist carved out the image in flat relief sculpture.


Kubera who is another member of Dikpalakas, the Lord of north and the God of treasures is sculpted on the exterior wall of the Hayagriva Madhava temple (Plate 8.11). According to Buddhist mythology, Kubera is also God of riches and is the guardian deity of the northern region of the universe. The Ramayana also mentions that Kuvera is represented as the giver of riches. The visual representation of Kubera is described as two handed or four handed. When Kubera is depicted as two handed then emblems are the varada and abhaya or gada, on the contrary, if he is carved out as four handed image then he embraces his consorts, Vibhava and Vriddhi by his two hands while other hands carry the gada and sakti. He is fully ornamented with karandamukuta, kundalas and necklaces which are composed of a series of golden coins. His appearance is given either good looking or even terrific looking. According to Vishnudharmottara Purana, Kubera wears clothes like westerners and the body is protected with armour. He is given moustache along with side tusks on his mouth.

He is seated on padmapitha or on a chariot. The Rupamandana mentions that the elephant as vahana is given to Kubera and emblems are the gada, a purse containing money, a pomegranate fruit and a kamandalu (Rao, 1914). The image of Kubera of the Hayagriva Madhava temple is shown seated on the shoulder of a man and they are flanked by two women who are the consorts of him. Each figure holds the gada, on the other hand, Kuvera holds a ratna patra because he is a Lord of treasurer. Stylistic feature indicates that the sculptural composition is done in later period.


Isana, the Lord of north-east quarter of the universe is found on the outer wall of the garbhagriha in the Hayagriva Madhava temple (Plate 8.12). Though, Isana is a guardian deity but he is accepted as one of the manifestations of Siva. In the visual representation, he has three eyes and wears a tiger's skin which is his usual dress. He has given ajatamukuta having crescent moon. The deity adorns a sacred thread or snake as ornament. He is seated either on apadmasana or upon a white bull. When he is depicted as two handed then he carries the trisula, kapala or varada pose. The vina, varada and abhaya poses are illustrated when the image is displayed as four handed (Rao, 1914).

The image of Isana of this temple is shown as four handed while the upper left hand is slightly mutilated. He holds a trisula, therefore, he is very similar to image of Siva, but other hands are not clearly identified. The carving style indicates that the image is not original and possibly is done in later period.

Miscellaneous Sculptures:

Some of the miscellaneous religious sculptures are found on the exterior wall of the garbhagriha, on the other hand, some are scattered within the temple campus. A sculptural composition is inscribed on the exterior wall of the garbhagriha (Plate 8.13). In the sculptural depiction, two warriors go to battle riding on a mythical animal, makara, which is their vehicle. Interestingly, their vehicle is of peculiar type which is the rare representation in the sculptural art of Assam. The makara figure shows the tremendous movement in body. The artist added his own creativity in depicting the makara figure because five number horses in miniature form are placed in the body of makara motif which is aquatic animal. All the horses are encircled by circles. The middle one horse is carved out in full circle while the remaining horses are showed in half circles. The first one who is seated in vehicle appears like a royal man because he adorns all types of ornaments and also is given headdress. He also holds bow in his left hand. His face is in profile view while the body is in frontal view. On the contrary, the charioteer is given a coiffure and adorns with simple ornaments. The face of the charioteer is placed as semi profile while body is in frontal view. Artist was able to capture the motion on both of the seated figures. On back side of them, a small flag is flying. The carving style of the composition indicates that this sculptural scene is done in mature phase of the sculptural art of Assam. Besides, the depiction of makara figure with floral motif reveal about the influence of Gupta

An image of Vishnu with his vehicle, Garuda in standing posture is found on the exterior wall of the sanctum of the temple (Plate 8.14). The image holds the usual attributes such as the sankha, chakra, gada and padma. The feature indicates that the image is done in later period.

It is noteworthy that among different images of Vishnu, an image of Goddess Sakti, which is identified as Goddess Kali appears on the temple wall (Plate 8.15). Possibly, due to the influence of Tantricism of Vaishnava religion, this type of image is displayed in this Vishnu temple. The image of Sakti is shown as large in size. In the visual representation, Goddess Kali stands on God Siva.

The female divinity holds the sword and the shield in upper hands. The lower left hand holds a skull and right hand holds an unidentified object. Devi adorns all types of ornaments but she also adorns a mundamala. The image is placed upon a human figure, which is Siva. Her headdress is of peculiar type. The Goddess is represented as semi nude.

A gigantic image, which is associated with the religious sculpture, is carved out on the outer wall of the sanctum of the temple (Plate 8.16). The figure is strongly carved out while his headdress recalls the ancient Egyptian art. This type of figure appears uncommonly in the sculptural art of Assam.

A horrifying image which is identified as the Yamduta is inscribed on the outer wall of the garbhagriha (Plate 8.17). He is given a terrific look depicting the tongue and open eyes. Depiction of image of Yamduta is rarely found in the temple art. According to mythological concept, Yamduta gives punishment to the sinner men after their death. The image of Yamduta holds a whip on the right hand while other hand holds a danda. He wears a peculiar dress in the lower portion, which is called langoti.

The sculptural art of Hayagriva Madhava temple contains numbers of images of sages, which are found on the outer walls or as scattered images (Plate 8.18 and Plate 8.19). Most of them are placed in meditative mood as well as in standing posture. According to the authority, in the sculptural representation. rishis are seated or standing on the padmapitha. They are shown as peaceful old men with flowing beards reaching up to the chest, with their foreheads marked with three streaks vibhuti. They carry a walking stick in their hands while the right hand performs the jnana mudra and the left arm keeps on the knee of the left leg. They wear garments made of barks of trees while white cloths are depicted in upper body part (Rao, 1914).

The image of meditative man in semi profile is covered the whole body by cloth and is in standing posture (Plate 8.18). He has a coiffure representing as the beard man. This image is found within the temple campus as scattered image. On the other hand, (Plate 8.19) illustrates another image of meditative man which is found on the outer wall of the sanctum. He has also a coiffure on the top of his head and holds a sacred thread on his hand. Stylistic feature is not similar with the (plate no. 8.18.)

A sculptural scene is shovm of a procession of women inscribed on the exterior wall of the temple (Plate 8.20). The village women possibly go to some religious programme because the first one woman carries bananas in her hands; the second one holds his son and the third one also bears a fruit in her hand. Artist tried to depict perspective carving the images in this composition. Stylistic expression indicates that the work is done in later period. The women dressed like traditional Bengali woman. It can be said that Bengal is too nearer state of Assam therefore, the images were easily influenced by the tradition of Bengal.

Besides, a large number of religious images, some narrative scenes are also displayed on the temple walls. Among them, a scene represents from the event of Ramayana, where Ravana tries to kidnap Sita. A combat scene which is borrowed from the event of the Mahabharata is found. Feature of the sculptural scene indicates that the work is carved out in later period. Amalgamated of narrative scenes with other religious images of this temple enhanced the aesthetic expression in uniqueness.

Some architectural piece of the Hayagriva temple contains a limited numbers of images of erotic nature. The figures are seemed to be engaged in coital posture. Due to the Tannic influence of Vaishnavism, these of types of images are installed in the sculptural art of Hayagriva Madhava temple.

Flora and Fauna:

Both the flora and fauna are noticeable matter for this temple site.

Depictions of Flora:

Under the flora section, numbers of floral motifs are seen in the different architectural parts of the temple building. The most prominent floral motif is observed on the friezes of the temple plinth, where the petals of lotus are depicted in design pattern (Plate 8.21). Some of the lotus petals of different type are carved out on the surfaces of temple walls to relieve from monotonous carvings of the images (Plate 8.22). This kind of lotus motif is illustrated in rhythmic manner as well as in designable pattern. Most of them are enclosed with the divine images to enhance the aesthetic grandeur. Sometimes, floral motifs are blended with the geometrical forms. Plate no. 8.23 shows that full bloomed lotuses are amalgamated with geometrical forms such as circle and diamond. The lotus motifs are placed within these geometrical forms. These are also added as border designs on the outer walls of the temple.

A depiction of graceftil creeper motif is found on the door frame of the garbhagriha. This kind of creeper motif is also available in the sculptural art of Daparbatiya temple and Kamakhya temple also. This creeper motif reflects the influence of Gupta art. In addition, '"'The stone-door leading to the Manikuta contains fine foliage decorations recalling Gupta art (Choudhury, 1988). Besides, the floral motifs of realistic representation are found on the lower parts of the door jambs of the garbhagriha.

A realistic depiction of tree motif is observed on back side of Indra (Plate 8.24). This tree motif is uniqueness due to the natural carving of the tree. Besides, realistic representations of floral motifs are also observed on the stone block where the lion motifs are placed.

Depictions of Fauna:

Among the fauna group, the animals are found in realistic representation as well as composite forms. The most prominent sculptural figure is the elephant. The numerous images of elephant are depicted as the base moulding at this temple architecture (Plate 8.25). Numerous elephant motifs are represented in a row giving the support of the super structure of the temple. In the depictions, the elephants are given a royal look because they adorn ornaments. All the tusker elephants of the temple plinth are carved out in high relief From the literary evidences as well as sculptural evidences, it can be said that the temple is the original part of the Buddhist shrine. The sculptural portion of the elephant is very similar to the decorative style of the Kailas cave temple of Ellora (Waddell, 1895). Elephant stands as the symbols of strength, power, courage, gentleness, fortitude, devotion etc.

According to Hindu mythology, elephant is the vehicle of Indra. Indra along with his vehicle, elephant is connected to the rain. In Buddhist world, elephant also connected to Buddha's Birth. Elephant is the symbolic representation of Buddha. According to Jataka story, before birth of Gautam Buddha, mother Mayadevi had a dream appearing white elephant. Elephant was the most sacred animal for the Buddhist world. Therefore, elephant was depicted as symbolically in the Buddhist art and architecture. The earliest sculptural representation of Indra on Airavata was found on the entrance to the cave at Bhaja. An image of Indra who is seated on Airavata was showed visiting Buddha in Gandhara art. According to mythology, Vishnu also connected with elephant.

The mythology is described in Bhagavata Purana. According to legend, once upon a time, there was a king of elephant named Gajendra. In a hot day, Gajendra planned to bath in a nearby lake. A crocodile lived in that lake. When Gajendra took bath in the lake, the crocodile attacked Gajendra and caught tightly one of his legs. At last, Gajendra prayed to God Vishnu holding a lotus up as an offering for saving his life. Immediately, Vishnu was visible in front of him to save Gajendra's life. Vishnu detached the crocodile's head by his chakra saving the life of Gajendra (Gupta, 1983). This mythology reveals that the elephant is closely connected to Lord Vishnu. Though, the elephants of Hayagriva Madhava temple are sculpted as relief sculpture but this animated motif is carved out like free standing sculpture.

Besides elephant, verities of animals are displayed on the surfaces of the temple because a great verity of animals is engaged as vehicle of the divine images. The animals are ram-vehicle of Agni, elephant-vehicle of Indra, deer-vehicle of Vayu and buffalo-vehicle of Yama and lion. The depictions of large numbers of animals reveal that the artists had good knowledge about the animals.The figures of lion are observed on fragments of the pillars (Plate 8.26).

Nature of the sculptured block reveals that these are originally parts of the temple building. Representations of three lion motifs of a stone block lying scattered at the temple campus. The figures of lion of frontal view are carved out in stylisation. These are attached to the floral motifs. Depictions of lions recall the Lion capital of Mauryan art. In addition, ''At that time of the reconstruction of the temple in the sixteenth century it appears that a large number of carved stones belonging to an older temple were spread over the court- yard in front of the temple and some were used to make a flight of steps leading up to the temple.

Some of these have now been brought out by excavation. These include a massive lion capital of the Mouiya type made up in two equal halves (1935). The makara figure which is accepted as mythical animal in Indian art is elegantly carved out in good numbers. This aquatic animal is used as vehicle or independently in art of this temple. God Varuna uses this animal as vehicle. Besides, another makara figure which is attached as vehicle in the battle scene is found in the temple art. A pair of makaras is observed on the door frame of the garbhagriha of the temple. The makara figures are displayed with some floral motifs. In Indian mythology, the makara figure is the vehicle of Ganga but the river Goddess is absent here. Goddess Ganga along with makara figure is very commonly met on the temple art of the Gupta period. Therefore, it can be assumed that the makara figures are illustrated during time of Gupta art. The makara figure is well executed at this site. The aquatic animal, makara motif is found in composite form where the crocodile and fish are composited.

Geometrical Designs:

Though, the depictions of geometrical forms are not found available but the most intricate cravings of the geometrical designs are noticed on the temple plinth. (Plate 8.27) displays the designs like fence. These are the finest carvings depicted above the friezes of elephants on the temple plinth.

A motif of complex design in repeating manner is observed on the temple walls (Plate 8.28). There are two kinds of motifs observed, where one is like star design and other is very similar to the anata, which is one of the members of eight auspicious motifs of Indian art and symbolises continuous knot. This motif is uncommonly found in temple art. This carving creates a peaceful expression which is called Shanta rasa.


This mystery concludes with the following analysis.

The sculptures are amalgamated with the influences of Hindu as well as the Buddhism. Since, the sculptures carry the characteristic features from both of the religions.But it is very evident that , the Hindu sculptures were reworked much later . The fact that Buddha was an Atheist is very clear. Why would an Atheist be an Avatar of Vishnu ? Think for yourself .

Various incarnations of Vishnu with others some Hindu images are inscribed on the outer walls of the garbhgriha. On the contrary, the temple plinth contains numerous elephants which reveal the influence of Buddhism. The elephant is most common symbolic representation of Buddha. This type of carved temple plinth is rarely found in the sculptural art of Assam.

A great verity of mythologies associate with the temple and are recorded in the different ancient texts. Each image of religious theme also connected with the legends. The legends and motifs are interrelated in the temple art. In the sculptural scheme, religious sculptures play a vital role because a large number of images show the iconographic canons. Among them, Vishnu's numbers of incarnations occupied a major place on the surfaces of the temple walls. Besides, members of Dikpalakas and Sakti image are inscribed which are the rare representations in the sculptural art of Assam.

The sculptures of Hayagriva Madhava temple show the characteristic features of different times because the temple was reconstructed many times. The sculptures show the characteristic features from early Indian art that is Mauryan art to the late mediaeval art of Assam. Evidences reveal that the temple is influence by Gupta art because on both sides of the door frame of garbhagriha, figures of makara with the floral motifs are inscribed while makara is the symbolic representation of Ganga. Depictions of the Ganga and Yamuna with their vehicles, makara and tortoise are the characteristic features of the Gupta art.

The influence of Mauryan art is found in the sculptural art of Hayagriva Madhava temple because some fragments of pillar reveal this idea while lions of large size in frontal view are displayed. A large number of animated motifs which are realistic representations as well as composite form are found. The numerous elephants of realistic representations are depicted on the temple plinth as the supporter of the temple building. Mostly the representations of the realistic animals are placed as vehicles of the divine beings. Among the composited animated figures is the makara motif is found in good numbers.

The most of the sculptures of this temple expressed the Shringar rasa, Shanta rasa, Raudra rasa and Veer rasa of heroism. Depiction of Shringar rasa is observed in the sculptures of erotic motifs which are found at the temple campus. Most of the divine images along with meditative figures reveal the Shanta rasa. The combat scenes which are installed on the temple wall show the depiction of Veer rasa. 

Images for the different plates , below in order : 

No comments:

Post a Comment