Govind Deo

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Temple of Govind Deo ji / Govind Dev Temple / गोविन्द देव जी

The Temple of Govind Deo is not only the finest of this particular series (Gobind Dev, Gopi Nath, Jugal Kishor and Madan Mohan.), but is the most impressive religions edifice that Hindu art has ever produced, at least in Upper India. The body of the building is in the form of a Greek cross, the nave being a hundred feet in length and the breadth across the transepts the same.

Brajdiscovery Comment

Govind Dev Temple, Vrindavan

Indian historions are not in agreement with Mr. Growse's view that Govind Deo Temple's building is in the form of a 'Greek cross' or 'constructed of true radiating arches as in our Gothic cathedrals. The central compartment is surmounted by a dome of singularly graceful proportions; and the four arms of the cross are roofed by a waggon vault of pointed form, not, as is usual in Hindu architecture, composed of overlapping brackets, but constructed of true radiating arches as in our Gothic cathedrals. The walls have an average thickness of ten feet and are pierced in two stages, the upper stage being a regular triforium, to which access is obtained by an internal staircase, as in the somewhat later temple of Radha Ballabh. This triforium is a reproduction of Muhammadan design, while the work both above and below it is purely Hindu. It should be noted, however, that the arches are decorative only, not constructural : the spandrels in the head might be, and, in fact, for the most part had been—struck out, leaving only the lintel supported on the straight jambs, without any injury to the stability of the building. They have been re-inserted in the course of the recent restoration. At the east entrance of the nave there is a small narthex fifteen feet deep; and at the west end, between two niches and encased in a rich canopy of sculpture, a square-headed doorway leads into the choir, a chamber some twenty feet by twenty. Beyond this was the sacrarium flanked on either side by a lateral chapel; each of these three cells being of the same dimensions as the choir, and like it vaulted by a lofty dome. The latter building has greatly the advantage in size, but in the other, the central dome is more elegant, while the richer decoration of the wall surface and the natural glow of the red sandstone supply that relief and warmth of colouring which are so lamentably deficient in its western rival. The ground-plan is so similar to that of many European churches as to suggest the idea that the architect was assisted by the Jesuit missionaries, who were people of considerable influence at Akbar's court : was this really the case, the temple would be one of the most eclectic buildings in the world, having a Christian ground-plan, a Hindu elevation, and a roof of modified Saracenic character. But the surmise, though a curious one, must not be too closely pressed; for some of the temples at Khajurao, by Mahoba, are of similar design and of much earlier date; nor is it very likely that the Jesuits would have interested themselves in the construction of a heathen fane. It would seem that, according to the original design, there would have been five towers; one over the central dome, and the other four covering respectively the choir, sacrarium, and two chapels. The sacrarium has been utterly razed to the ground the chapel towers were never completed, and that over the choir, though the most perfect, has still lost several of its upper stages. This last was of slighter elevation than the others, occupying the same relative position as the spirelet over the Sanctus bell in western ecclesiology. The loss of the towers and of the lofty arcaded parapet that surmounted the walls has terribly marred the effect of the exterior and given it a heavy stunted appearance; while, as a further disfigurement, a plain masonry wall had been run along the top of the centre dome. It is generally believed that this was built by Aurangzeb for the purpose of desecrating the temple, though it is also said to have been put up by the Hindus themselves to assist in some grand illumination. It either case it was an ugly modern excrescence, and its removal was the very first step taken at the commencement of the recent repairs. Under one of the niches at the west end of the nave is a tablet with a long Sanskrit inscription. This has unfortunately been too much mutilated to allow of transcription, but so much of it as can be deciphered records the fact that the temple was built in sambat 1647, i.e., A.D. 1590, under the direction of the two Gurus, Rupa and Sanatana. As it was in verse, it probably com bined a minimum of information with an excess of verbosity, and its loss is not greatly to be regretted. The following is taken from the exterior of the north-west chapel, where it is cut into the wall some ten feet from the ground, and is of considerable interest :—

संबत् ३४ श्री शकवंध अकबर शाह राज श्री कर्मकुल श्री पृथिराजाधिराज वंश महाराज श्रीभगवंतदाससुत श्री महाराजाधिराज श्रीमानसिंहदेव श्री वृन्दावन जोग पीठस्थान मंदिर कराजै । श्री गोविन्ददेव को कामउपरि श्रीकल्याणदास आज्ञाकारी माणिकचंद चोपाङ शिल्पकारि गोविन्ददास दील वलि कारिगरु: द:। गोरषदसुवींभवलृ ।।
" In the 34th year of the era inaugurated by the reign of the Emperor Akbar, Shri Maharaj Maan Singh Dev, son of Maharaj Bhagavan Das, of the family of Maharaj Prithiraj, founded, at the holy station of Vrindavan, this temple of Govind Dev. The head of the works, Kalyan Das, the Assistant Superintendent, Manik Chand Chopar (?), the architect, Gobind Das of Delhi, the mason, Gorakh Das." There is some mistake in the engraving of the last words, which seem to be intended for Subham bhavatu, like the Latin `Felix, faustumque sit.'

Govind Dev Temple, Vrindavan

It was looked upon by the people in the neighbourhood convenient quarry, where every house-builder was at liberty to excavate for materials; while large trees had been allowed to grow up in the fissures of the walls, and in the course of a few more summers their spreading roots would have caused irreparable damage. Accordingly, after an ineffectual attempt to enlist the sympathies of the Archaeological Department, the writer took the op portunity of Sir William Muir's presence in the district, on tour, to solicit the adoption on the part of the Government of some means for averting a catastrophe that every student of architecture throughout the world would have regarded as a national disgrace. Unfortunately he declined to sanction any grant from Pro vincial funds, but allowed a representation of the ruinous condition of the temple and its special interest to be made to the Government of India, for communica tion to the Maharaja of Jaypur, as the representative of the founder. .His Highness immediately recognized the claim that the building had upon him and made no difficulty about supplying tho small sum of Rs. 5,000, which had been estimated by the Superintending Engineer as sufficient to defray the cost of all absolutely essential repairs. The work was taken in hand at the beginning of August, 1873. The obtrusive wall erected by the Muhammadans on the top of the dome was demolished; the interior cleared of several unsightly party-walls and other modern excrescences; and outside, all the debris was removed, which had accumulated round the base of the building to the astonishing height of eight feet and in some places even more, entirely concealing the handsomely moulded plinth; a considerable increase was thus made to the elevation of the building the one point in which, since the loss of the original parapet and towers, the design had appeared defective. On the south side of the choir stood a large domed and pillared chhattri of very handsome and harmonious design, though erected 40 years later than the temple. The following inscription is rudely cut on one of its four pillars :-

संबत् १६९३ वरषे कातिक वदि ५ शुभदिने हजस्त श्री श्री श्री शाहजहां राज्ये राणा श्री अमरसिंह जी को बेटो राजा श्रीभीम जी और राणी श्री रंभावती चौषंडी सौराई छैजी ।।

"In the year Sambat 1693 (i.e., 1836 A.D.), on an auspicious day, Kartik Badi 5, in the reign of the Emperor Shahjahan, this monument was erected by Rani Rambhavati, widow of Raja Bhim, the son of Rana Amar Singh. "
These works had more than exhausted the petty sum of Rs. 5,000, which (as remarked at the time) was barely enough to pay for the scaffolding required for a complete restoration; but in the meantime Sir John Strachey had succeeded to the Government of these Provinces, and he speedily showed his interest in the matter by making a liberal grant from public funds. With this the roof of the entire building was thoroughly repaired; the whole of the upper part of the east front, which was in a most perilous state, was taken down and rebuilt; and the pillars, brackets, and eaves of the external arcades on the north and south sides, together with the porches at the four corners of the central dome, were all renewed.

Govind Dev Temple, Vrindavan

A complete restoration was also effected of the Jagmohan (or choir) tower, excepting only that the finial and a few stages of stone-work immediately under it were not added; for they had entirely perished and, in the absence of the original design, Sir John Strachey would not allow me to replace them. As a general principle the introduction of any new work under such circumstances is much to be deprecated, but in this particular case there could not be any doubt as to the exact character and dimensions of the missing portions, since the stages of the tower diminish from the bottom upwards in regular proportion and all bear the same ornamentation. Certainly, the pic turesque effect would have been immensely enhanced by giving the tower the pyramidal finish intended for it, instead of leaving it with its present stunted appearance. Picture if the temple of Govind-dev required page no.248 The work was conducted under my own personal supervision without any professional assistance, except Mr. Inglis's suggestion, which I have duly chronicled, up to March, 1877, when Sir George Couper, who had two months previously been confirmed as Sir John Strachey's successor; suddenly ordered my transfer from the district. The restoration would most assuredly never have been undertaken but for my exertions, and as I had been engaged upon it so long, it was naturally a disappointment to me not to be allowed to com plete it. However, all that was absolutely essential had been accomplished and for the comparatively modest outlay of Rs. 38,865, nearly a lakh less than the Public Works estimate. Mr. Fergusson, in his Indian Architecture, speaks of this temple as `one of the most interesting and elegant in India, and the only one, perhaps, from which a European architect might borrow a few hints. I should myself have thought that ‘solemn’ or ‘imposing’ was a more appropriate term than ‘elegant’ for so massive a building, and that the suggestions that might be derived from its study were ‘many’ rather than ‘few;’ but the criticism is at all events in intention a complimentary one. It is, however, unfortunate that the author of a book which will long and deservedly be accepted as an authority was not able to obtain more satisfactory information regarding so notable a chef d'aeuvre. The, ground-plan that he supplies is extremely incorrect; for it gives in faint lines, as if destroyed, the choir, or Jagmohan, which happens to be in more perfect preservation than any other part of the fabric, and it entirely omits the two chapels that flank the cella on either side and are integral portions of the design. The cella itself is also omitted; though for this there I was more excuse, since it was razed to the ground by Aurangzeb and not a vestige of it now remains; though the rough rubble wall of the choir shows where it had been attached. These two parts of the building, the sacrarium and the choir, were certainly completed, towers and all. They alone were indispensably necessary for liturgical purposes and were therefore the first taken in hand, in the same way as in mediaeval times the corresponding parts of a cathedral were often in use for many years before the nave was added. In clearing the basement, comparatively few fragments of carved stone were discovered imbedded in the soil. There are some built up into the adjoining houses, but chiefly corbels and shafts, which were clearly taken from the lower stories of the temple. No fragments of the upper stages of the towers have been brought to light; from which fact alone it might reasonably be con jectured that they were never finished. This was certainly the case with the two side chapels; and the large blocks lying on the top of their walls, ready to be placed in position, are just as they were left by the original builders, when the work for some unexplained reason was suddenly interrupted. Probably, as in so many other similar cases, it was the death of the founder which brought everything to a stand-still. The tower over the central dome was also, as I conjecture, never carried higher than we now see it; but the open arcades, which crowned the facade, though not a fragment of them now remains, were probably put up, as the stones of the parapet still show the dents of the pillars. The magnificent effect which they would have had may be gathered from a view of the temple in the Gwalior fort; which, though some 600 years earlier in date, is in general arrangement the nearest parallel to the Vrindavan fane, and would seem to have supplied Min Sinh with a model. It has been subjected to the most barbarous treatment, but has at last attracted the attention of Government, and is now being restored under the superintendence of Major Keith, an officer of unbounded archchaeological enthusiasm. There is no more interesting specimen of architecture to be found in all India. A modern temple, under the old dedication, has been erected within the precincts and absorbs the whole of the endowment. The ordinary annual income amounts to Rs. 17,500; but by far the greater part of this, viz., Rs. 13,000, is made up by votive offerings. The fixed estate includes one village in Alwar and another in Jaypur, but consists principally of house property in the town of Vrindavan, where is also a large orchard, called Radha Bagh. This has been greatly diminished in area by a long series of encroachments; and a temple, dedicated to Ban Bihari, has now been built in it, at a cost of Rs. 15,000, by Raja Jay Singh Deo, Chief of Charkhari, in Bundelkhand. About a hundred years ago it must have been very extensive and densely wooded, as Father Tieffenthaller, in his notice of Vrindavan, describes it in the following terms :—" L'endroit est convert de beaucoup d'arbres et resemble a un bois sacre des anciens; il est triste par le morne silence qui y regne, quoiqu' agreable par I'ombre epaisse des arbres, desquels on n'ose arracher un rameau, ni mine une feuille; ce serait un grand delft." The site of the Seth's temple was also purchased from the Govind Dev estate, and a further subsidy of Rs. 102 a year is still paid on its account.

Temples of Vrindavan

Ashtasakhi Kunj · Rang Nath Temple · Bankhandi Mahadev · Brahmchari Thakur Badi · Govind Deo Temple · Banke Bihari Temple · Shah Bihari Ji Temple · Madan Mohan Temple · Radha Vallabh Temple · Rup Sanatan Gaudiya Math · Jaipur Temple · Jugal Kishor Temple · Radha Raman Temple · Iskcon Temple · Radha Damodar Temple · Radha Vinod Temple · Lala Babu Temple · Gopi Nath Ji Temple · Sakshi Gopal Temple · Swarnmayi Temple · Shyamsunder Temple · Savaman Shalgram · Shahjapur Temple · Shri Ji Temple · Tikari Rani Thakur Badi · Radha Madhav Temple · Varddhman Maharaj Kunj

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