2022 GS1 Answer

Q. Discuss the significance of the lion and bull figures in Indian mythology, art and architecture.

Question from UPSC Mains 2022 GS1 Paper

Model Answer:

In Indian mythology, the lion and bull figures hold significant symbolism and are prominent in various forms of art and architecture. Both animals have been featured in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions, and their representations are considered to be auspicious.

Lion in Indian Mythology, Art, and Architecture:

The lion is regarded as the king of the jungle and is considered a symbol of power, courage, and strength. In Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu’s fourth avatar, Narasimha, is depicted as half-man and half-lion. He is said to have descended on earth to protect his devotee Prahlada from his evil father Hiranyakashipu. The lion is also associated with Goddess Durga, who rides on a lion and is believed to have killed the demon Mahishasura.

In Indian art and architecture, the lion is commonly used as a decorative motif. The famous Ashokan Pillar at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh, India, has four lions standing back to back, representing strength, courage, and power. The Lion Capital is now the national emblem of India. The temples in southern India often have sculptures of lions placed at the entrance, symbolizing protection and strength. Lions are also depicted in paintings, textiles, and handicrafts, such as wooden toys, pottery, and jewelry.

Bull in Indian Mythology, Art, and Architecture:

The bull, also known as Nandi, is the mount of Lord Shiva and is a symbol of loyalty, strength, and power. In Hindu mythology, Nandi is believed to be the gatekeeper of Lord Shiva’s abode and is considered to be his closest devotee. In art, Nandi is depicted as a bull with a hump and a bell around its neck.

In Indian architecture, Nandi is often featured as a statue in front of Shiva temples. The most famous Nandi statue is the monolithic Nandi at the Chamundi Hills in Mysore, Karnataka. The statue is carved out of a single piece of granite and stands at 16 feet tall and 24 feet long. The Nandi Bull is also considered to be a symbol of fertility and is worshipped in some parts of India.

In conclusion, the lion and bull figures hold great significance in Indian mythology, art, and architecture. Both animals symbolize strength, power, and loyalty, and their representations are considered to be auspicious in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain traditions. They are prominent features in various forms of Indian art and architecture and continue to inspire artists and artisans to this day.

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