Posts Tagged 'Hinduism'

Friday Photos: Bovine Bonanza

As a new Texas transplant, I have been trying to immerse myself in Dallas culture as much as possible.  I went to the State Fair and tried every fried food imaginable; I experienced the Ft. Worth Stockyards and the weekly rodeo (not a fan of calf roping); and I have already developed an obsession for sweet tea!

Luckily for me, the Dallas Museum of Art has an excellent collection of artwork by local Texan artists—a great opportunity for both newbies like me and old hats in the community to learn more about Dallas and the broader Texas art scene.

One prominent theme in Texan artworks is the ever-presence of cows! Cattle driving and trailing played a huge role in the history of north Texas and the animals remain an important cultural marker for the entire state.

Cows are not only prominent in Texan art, but bovines can also be found aplenty in our Asian collection reflecting the place of honor they hold in Hinduism.  Nandi, the bull often seen in Hindu art, serves as the mount of one of the principle Hindu deities, Shiva.  Not simply a means of transportation for Shiva, Nandi is also a primary god on his own and Shiva’s foremost disciple.

While Texans and Hindus revere cows in extremely different manners, each has found them important enough to include in their artwork, which, to me, illustrates an exciting cross-cultural connection!

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Artworks shown:

  • George Grosz, Cattle, 1952-1953, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. Harris and Company in memory of Leon A. Harris, Sr.
  • Clara McDonald Williamson, Get Along Little Dogies, 1945, Dallas Museum of Art, Ted Dealey Purchase Prize, Seventeenth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition, 1946
  • Otis Dozier, Wild Cow Milking Contest, 1941, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Dozier Foundation
  • Tom Lea, Wild Cattle of South Texas: Ancestors of the Longhorns, 1945-1946, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Life Magazine
  • Shiva Nataraja, Chola dynasty, 11th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the Hamon Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor in honor of David T. Owsley, with additional funding from The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund
  • Nandi bull, c. 13th century, Dallas Museum of Art, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund and gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation
  • Humped bull (zebu, or Bos Indicus), 3rd millennium B.C., Dallas Museum of art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation

Pilar Wong
McDermott Intern for Community Teaching

How It's Used: Sacred Bronzes of India

Earlier this week, Loryn told us all about how sacred Indian bronze sculptures were made. Using the lost-wax process, each beautiful bronze sculpture was created as a one-of-a-kind work of art. Now that we know how they were made, I would like to explore how they were used.

Shiva Nataraja, sculpture, bronze, Chola dynasty, 11th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the Hamon Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor in honor of David T. Owsley, with additional funding from The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, 2000.377

Shiva Nataraja, Chola dynasty, 11th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the Hamon Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor in honor of David T. Owsley, with additional funding from The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, 2000.377

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As Loryn mentioned, many bronze sculptures were originally housed in Hindu temples. Each temple is dedicated to one particular god, and its primary function is to serve as the temporary home of that god. According to the Hindu belief system, an image of a god can be inhabited by the actual physical deity. This can only happen if the sculptor and priest have diligently followed the instructions of the sacred scriptures throughout the creation of the icon. This ability to invoke the actual presence of the god gives devotees the chance to interact with the deity directly. It is this interaction that lies at the heart of all Hindu worship, known as darshan, which means to see and be seen in return. This visual encounter, experienced by both devotee and deity, is the primary reason for temple visits.

The god usually resides within a stone icon installed in the inner sanctuary of the temple. But in order to make himself accessible to everyone, he is brought outside the temple walls for processions. Special sculptures are created solely for use in processions, usually made of bronze. The god leaves the inner sanctuary and inhabits the bronze sculpture after intensive ritual purification.

Photograph by John Guy, Shiva on his silver mount Nandi, 1993. Guy, John. Indian Temple Sculpture. V&A Publications: London, 2007.

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The DMA’s bronze Hindu sculpture Shiva Nataraja was one of these sacred sculptures made for processions. It’s easy to identify because of the holes at the bottom of the platform. During a procession, poles were inserted into these holes so that temple attendants could easily carry it through town. Shiva Nataraja would have been so richly adorned with clothes, jewelry, flowers, auspicious unguents and liquids, that oftentimes the eyes were the only visible feature. However the eyes were also the most important feature. As long as the eyes could be seen through the heap of endless offerings, darshan could still be experienced by all present. To this day, Hindu processions are still very lively public events that involve the entire community and attract pilgrims from far and wide. Engaging all five of the senses with incense, flowers, music, dancing, hymns, and mantras, everyone actively participates in the religious festivities.

I hope this helps spark your imagination during your next visual encounter with a Hindu deity!

Hannah Burney
McDermott Intern for Teaching Programs and Partnerships


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