details on bull capital at rampurva

http://www.public.iastate.edu/~tart/arth382/lecture5.html

http://cla.calpoly.edu/~jwetzel/India/slides/BullCapital.html

http://www.cyberjalgaon.com/heritage/architec.htm

http://www.newindpress.com/sunday/colItems.asp?ID=SEC20020913062144

The 8’9" Rampurva Bull capital comes from one of a pair of pillars found at the same site on the Gandak river, about half way from Pataliputra, the Maurya capital and Lumbini the Buddha’s birth place. It is carved in the light-coffee-colored sandstone of Chunar and likely carried from there. Its design is divided into the lotus bell base a narrow abacus of floral forms and the great bull zebu above. It was once finished in a fine polish, but years of weathering and possibly the time lying in bog where it eventually fell has worn off most.

The lotus bell is a highly refined shape we find in a good number of other capitals and destined to become a stable of later Indian design. It is a full round shape bulging gently but firmly above to produce a double-curving silhouette. Its outer surface is finished in a set of ridges that alternate abstractly between angled ribs surrounded by rounded ones. Above the bell is a narrow necking finished in the form of a twisted rope. Above this is a wide abacus carrying a repeat pattern of three spread out flower and rosette forms.

It is John Irwin’s contention that such animal capitals were originally made in wood or copper and then lashed with ropes to the tops of wooden pillars. If that is so this design may preserve in its alternating ribs the form of the ropes circling the base of the animal on top and hooking around pegs on the pole below.

Atop the design we find the great bull. It has lost its horns and its neck folds, but otherwise stands in relatively fine shape after two-and-a-quarter millennia. The bull stand majestically erect. All four legs are planted firmly on the platform. The stone between its legs has been left intact. Its genitals marked strongly in relief. If it is an idealized image in its symmetrical precision, it is also a relatively naturalistic one with its careful attention to realistic proportions and anatomy. All in all the swelling of the belly and its contrast against the ridge of the haunch behind and the soft swelling of the shoulders and hump in front are quite effective.

So what does Lee mean when he goes on to compare it with Hittite and Persian bulls? Why compare them to something from so far away in time and space? One of the Orientalist principles is to trace Indian designs to other supposed sources. The suggestion being that Indians could not create on their own. Since the Hittites were a thousand years earlier we can do best to see how this image compares with the Persian bulls, of the style that the Mauryas do actually share.

The Achaemenid Persians used animals in saddle linked pairs as architectural motifs. These pillars always had molded bases and usually fluted sides. They commonly also had polish. When they had bull capitals here is what the bull looked like.

Explain Bot Explain Bot answered
9 months ago

The Bull Capital at Rampurva is an ancient artifact found at the site on the Gandak river in India. It is one of a pair of pillars made from light-coffee-colored sandstone. The design of the capital consists of a lotus bell base, a narrow abacus with floral motifs, and a great bull zebu above.

The lotus bell is a refined shape commonly found in many other capitals in India and later became a staple in Indian design. It has a round shape that bulges gently but firmly, creating a double-curving silhouette. The outer surface of the bell is finished with ridges that alternate between angled ribs and rounded ones. Above the bell, there is a narrow necking designed in the form of a twisted rope. On top of the necking, there is a wide abacus decorated with a repeating pattern of three flower and rosette forms.

It is believed by John Irwin that such animal capitals were originally made in wood or copper and then tied with ropes to the tops of wooden pillars. The alternating ribs on the capital may represent the ropes circling the base of the animal and hooking around pegs on the pole below.

The bull on top of the capital stands majestically erect with all four legs firmly planted on the platform. Its genitals are prominently depicted in relief. Despite losing its horns and neck folds, the bull retains its relatively naturalistic shape, with attention to realistic proportions and anatomy. The swelling of the belly and its contrast against the ridge of the haunch behind and the soft swelling of the shoulders and hump in front create an effective composition.

In comparing the Rampurva Bull Capital with Hittite and Persian bulls, scholars like Lee trace Indian designs to other sources in an attempt to understand their origins. The Achaemenid Persians used animals, including bulls, as architectural motifs, often in pairs. These pillars had molded bases, fluted sides, and were usually polished. By comparing the Rampurva Bull Capital with Persian bulls, we can better understand the similarities and differences between the styles shared by the Mauryas and the Persians.

For more details and images of the Rampurva Bull Capital, you can refer to the following links:

- http://www.public.iastate.edu/~tart/arth382/lecture5.html
- http://cla.calpoly.edu/~jwetzel/India/slides/BullCapital.html
- http://www.cyberjalgaon.com/heritage/architec.htm
- http://www.newindpress.com/sunday/colItems.asp?ID=SEC20020913062144