Guwahati: Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti Assam on Saturday (11/9/21) organised its 7th lecture as a part of its year-long lecture series under the theme “Gauravmay Itihas of Bharat”. Sumedha Verma Ojha, prolific writer, columnist, historian, associated with United Nations Organization as a consultant from Geneva, Switzerland delivered her speech on “Hindu Queens as Temple Builders. in Bhartiya Parampara ''.
Ojha in her speech says that a small cabal of Marxists and feminists have been responsible for distorting our history writing. The Marxist Feminist framework is a conflict theory that stands against the principle of cooperation between the Purusha and the Prakriti that is the basis of the Bharatiya civilisation. The way in which we should look at the Indic civilization is through the varnashrama dharma – we need a refreshed and updated understanding of varna and ashrama. There has to be a balance between the pursuit of Dharma, Artha, Kaama, and Moksha. Indian society needs to be understood through the concept of varnashrama dharma and Purushartha.
The standard Marxist understanding has been that these were all made for men and never for women, fashioned within the term ‘patriarchy’ which has been borrowed from Christian theology. Our rishis who wrote our Dharmashastras have clear proof that all the four ashramas were open to both men and women equally. We need to look back at our own Itihasa – Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas – to understand the essence of our Bharatiya culture and civilization. She elaborated it with the examples of Sulabha, Gargi, Katyayani, the dialogue between Yagnavalkya and his two wives, etc. Both Brahmacharya and Sannyasa ashramas were equally open to women.
In this context, Sumedha Verma Ojha told in detail about the education of queens in ancient times. It was essential for everyone to be trained in the 64 arts, which were a fascinating combination of almost all the things that we can think of in our normal daily life, including dancing and singing, architecture, sculpture, and Vaastu. Thus, the royal queens were able to design temples, images and sculptures. She talked about queen Shantala, a renowned artist, dancer, and administrator. The Ikshvaku Queen Shanti Siri had a temple built at Nagarjunakonda, a famous Buddhist centre. Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples all existed together. The queens had donated to all kinds of temples, and as such, the sharp distinction between Hindu, Buddhism, and Jainism did not exist.
The Virupaksha temple (originally called the Lokeshwara temple) at Pattadakal was built by Lokamahadevi of the Chalukya dynasty, to commemorate her husband’s victory. Trilokyamahadevi and Lok Mahadevi were sisters and were somewhere down the line, moved by the same desire. Hence, in most of the cases we can observe that most of the temples were constructed and designed by queens of the same family. The Chalukyas of Vengi, the Rashtrakutas, etc. were all a mix of Hindu and Jain temples. The Bhomkaras of Orissa were a very different kind of reigning family which boasted of six important queens. According to inscriptions that we have today, they contributed towards the construction of a number of temples and also gave grants to several of them. Tribhuvan Mahadevi even gave money to ordinary women to build temples for their husbands.
Madhaveshwar Dev temple in Orissa was built by Madhavdevi, the queen of Sudhakar Dev. They achieved their ideas of piousness, charity, and moksha through their provision of grants to different temples. Jain queens such as Shantaladevi whose husband Vishnuvardhan later became a Hindu, also contributed tremendously towards the building of Hindu temples. Rudramma Devi of the Kakatiya dynasty was also a very important temple builder and giver of grants for temples. She then spoke about the Pallavas of Kanchi, famous for the construction of the Narasimhavarman temple and the Kailasanatha temple. The Kailasanathar temple at Kanchipuram was built by a queen of Narasimhavarman.
She then talked about the Cholas whose queens were also great contributors to temple building. Shimviya Mahadevi renovated old temples into new ones and also built new temples. She also built new statues. Shimviya Mahadevi was instrumental in designing and making of bronze statues and bronze portraits. Queen Nangai Bhuti who married into a Chola family built the exquisite Shiv Chandrashekhar temple, which was a mixture of her own distinctive styles of temple architecture followed in her family tradition and the Chola temple architecture. At last, she talked about the Gupta queen Prabhavati Gupta who married Rudrasena of the Vakataka dynasty. With her brother Kumaragupta, they ruled almost the entire country. She mixed the two styles of architecture – the Gupta style and the Vakataka style – in the art of temple construction. The Gahadavalas of Kannauj, the Chalukyas of Gujarat, and the queens of Kashmir, also constructed several beautiful temples across different places of the country.
Dr. Subhajit Choudhury, thanked veteran scholar Mrs. Sumedha Verma Ojha for her deliberation and others including Prof. Dilip Kumar Phukan, President BISS Assam. Dr. Ankita Dutta moderated the session.