Economic Botany

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 202–205 | Cite as

Maize ears not sculpted in 13th century Somnathpur temple in India

  • M. M. Payak
  • J. K. S. Sachan


Economic Botany 47(2)202-205. 1993. The contention that objects in the hands of male and female deities sculpted on the exterior of the Kesav Temple at Somnathpur near the city of Mysore, Karnataka State, India, represent maize ears is rejected on linguistic, religious, sculptural, archaeological, agricultural, and botanical grounds. The stone inscriptions associated with the temple list items or commodities used in worship, maize is not included. We find no evidence for maize figuring in any kind of religious ritual or worship. The word for maize used currently in the Kannada language is “Musukin Jola” which refers to a kind of millet resembling sorghum (“jola”). This appellation is of recent origin and does not appear in any literary work contemporary with the period of construction of Somnathpur temple. The wall images do not fully simulate in form and proportion the actual human figures. The beaded ornamentation, likewise, of the hand-held object shows considerable variation and its comparison whether on qualitative or quantitative basis with actual maize kernels of both primitive and modern maize is inappropriate. The variation inform and proportion and stylistic features of these objects is ascribed to their being the work of different sculptors. Maize now grown near the temple comprises modern cultivars, especially hybrids released during the early 1960’s. It is inconceivable that none of the primitive and advanced types of maize purported to be represented in the temple sculpture would have been considered worthy of cultivation from the thirteenth century to the present time. We hold that these temple sculptures do not represent maize or its ear but an imaginary fruit bearing pearls known in Sanskrit as “Muktaphala.”

Key Words

maize India temple sculpture 


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. M. Payak
    • 1
  • J. K. S. Sachan
    • 2
  1. 1.National Bureau of Plant Genetic ResourcesNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Division of GeneticsIndian Agricultural Research InstituteNew DelhiIndia

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