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Manasara - Treatise On Architecture And iconography In Hinduism

In Hinduism, Manasara is a comprehensive treatise on architecture and iconography from the same category as Mayamata (a well-known and important architectural text) but, in spite of the numerous parallels between the two works, it would seem that they belong to two slightly different branches of the South Indian school of architecture.

Both Mayamata and Manasara have the same overall structural plan. Manasara is, however, much longer than Mayamata. Manasara has fifty-four hundred verses (thirty-three hundred in Mayamata) divided into seventy chapters (thirty-six in Mayamata). According to P K Acharya, Manasara predates Mayamata. He ascribes Manasara to the Gupta period (4th – 6th centuries). He even argues that Manasara was the source of inspiration for all the architectural passages in Puranas and Agamas as well as in more specialized texts such as Brihata Samhita or Mayamata.

Manasara is a very comprehensive and exhaustive text and all aspects of architecture known and unknown to other texts, can be found in it. But T. Bhattacharya and others have questioned such an early date for Manasara precisely on the ground that, it deals exhaustively with all types, features and aspects of architecture.

According to the latter group of scholars, Manasara should have been compiled at a very late date (post-dating Mayamata) and hence it (Manasara) could easily and heavily borrow ideas from all other sources and texts. Some scholars also mention yet another text, Ur-Manasara written almost at the time of Mayamata. In any case, Manasara and Mayamata exhibit several common content details. Some authors say that Manasara was composed quite early (before Mayamata) but was partially lost; later authors filled up these ‘lost gaps’ with quotations from Mayamata etc.