Article of the Month - Nov 2022

This article by Manisha Sarade

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Cultural sculpture, stonework, and casting, in India - in the form of primitive cupule art - dates back to the era of prehistoric art of the Lower Paleolithic, around 700,000 BCE - By the time of the Bronze Age, sculpture was already the predominant form of artistic expression throughout the Indian subcontinent, even though mural painting was also popular. Sculpture was used mainly as a form of religious art to illustrate the principles of Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jainism. These works of art have found a way in decor – not simply home, but they can be put anyplace – your office, your nursery, and even in an open-air place. In contrast to other works of art, statues and sculptures are not simply limited to the divider. It tends to be put from multiple points of view. Here are some statues that can add a rustic, ethnic, and positive touch to your preferred space, with unique significance in culture and plethora of history behind each.

48" Large Sitting Chaturbhujadhari Bhagawan Ganapati In Panchaloha Bronze | Made in Swamimalai, Tamil Nadu

1. Bronze Statues from Chola Dynasty

The Chola bronzes are products of the Tamil creative genius during the period that the mighty Chola dynasty ruled Tamil Nadu, during the 9th to 12th Century period. The four centuries of Chola rule, is regarded by many as the age of grandeur in the Indian history. The history of metal art in South India is of great antiquity, and this is a living art to this day. This is kept alive by ingenious craftsmen who have preserved the ancient texts about the method of preparation, and also the contemplative hymns or "Dhyana Slokas" which describe the forms of individual icons. It was during the Chola times (900 A.D.), that the art and craftsmanship of bronze-casting attained its maximum glory.

By means of the facial expressions and gestures or mudras and the pose, one can imagine the surroundings of the figure of the god or goddess; what instrument or weapon he or she is holding; what he or she is leaning on; and what he or she is doing or about to do.

Stemming from Sanskrit words, Ardhnareshwar, a prominent Chola statue, is a Hindu mythological character that is said to be the combined form of Shiva and Parvati. According to several Puranas, including the Shiva Purana and the Narada Purana, if Lord Shiva wouldn’t have appeared in this form, the world would still have remained deserted. The Tamil temple mythology narrates that once the gods and sages (rishi) had gathered at Lord Shiva’s abode. They paid their respects to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. However, Bhringi, the sage, vowed to worship only Lord Shiva and ignored Goddess Parvati. Being agitated about this, Goddess Parvati cursed Bhringi to lose all his flesh and blood, reducing him to a skeleton. In this form, Bhringi could not stand upright. So, the compassionate ones who witnessed the scene blessed the sage with a third leg for support. As her attempt to humiliate the sage failed, Goddess Parvati punished herself with austerities that pleased Lord Shiva and led him to grant her the boon of uniting with him, thereby compelling Bhringi to worship her as well, in the form of Ardhanarishvara. However, the sage faked the form of a beetle and walked around only the male half, drilling a hole in the deity. Amazed by his devotion, Goddess Parvati then reconciled with the sage and blessed him. In other Puranas like the Linga Purana, Vayu Purana, Vishnu Purana, Kurma Purana, and Markandeya Purana, Rudra (identified as Lord Shiva) appears as Ardhanarishvara, emerging from Brahma’s head, forehead, mouth or soul as the manifestation of Brahma’s fury and frustration, due to the slow pace of creation.

2. Sivagami (Goddess Uma) Statue

One of the greatest Goddesses of India is the daughter of the Himalayas, known as Uma, Gauri, and sometimes Shakti (‘energy’).  Also identified as Ambika, Annapurna, Bhairavi, Kanyakumari, Kumari, Mahadevi, and more commonly known as Parvati, and Syama She was the consort and enlivening force of Shiva, the lord of life’s dance, and many myths surround Her. A very popular folktale on Uma tells, that once a rishi was imparting to his student's spiritual knowledge. When a lesson was over, the students were free to ask questions on the day’s lesson. One day the students asked: "Sir, who makes the mind desire? Who makes the eyes to see, the ears hear and the tongue speak?" The rishi said: "The One Great God causes all these things. He is everywhere. He is the source of all things. He who understands this truth becomes immortal." But the students said they did not understand him. So, the rishi told them a story.

14" Seated Uma (Devi Parvati) In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

Once the Devas won a battle against the Asuras. The Devas, however, did not realise that it was the Great God who made them win. The Devas thought they won the war by their own strength and in their ignorance, they became proud of what they had achieved. The Supreme God or Brahman wanted to cure them of their pride, so he suddenly appeared before them. The Devas could not say who it was, all that they could know was that it was a wonderful Being, so they decided to find out who it was.

First they sent Agni, the God of fire, to find out whom it was. When Agni went to the Strange Being, the latter asked, "Who are you?" Agni replied: "I am Agni, the powerful. I can burn anything in this or other worlds. I know everything!" The Supreme Being said: "Oh! Is that the fact? Look, here is a blade of grass. Burn it, if you can!" "Pooh!" said Agni and rushed upon the blade of grass. Try however much he did, he could not even touch the edge of the grass. Ashamed of his failure, he returned to the Devas and admitted his defeat.

9" Shiva-Parvati Seated on Kailasha In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

The Devas next sent Vayu, the wind good, to find out whom that Strange Being was. "Who are you?" asked the Being. "I am Vayu, the great. I can sweep away anything in this world with my power." "Can you really," said the Being. "Please sweep away this blade of grass. Vayu rushed at it, but the straw did not move an inch. Vayu too returned to the Devas and reported his failure. Then the Devas sent Indra, their King, to the Strange Being. When Indra went, the Strange Being was no longer to be seen, but in its place stood a charming woman. She was Uma, the Goddess of spiritual knowledge. Indra asked Uma: "Great Lady! Who was that Strange Being that was here!" Uma replied: "Fool! It was Brahman, the Supreme Being. It was he that won the battle against the Asuras for you. Not knowing it, you bragged amongst yourselves. He came here to teach you how worthless your powers are without His grace, and to cure you of your pride!"

On hearing this, Indra went back and reported this matter to the Devas. Then the Devas realised their mistake and begged to be forgiven. Later, they learnt the sacred knowledge about God, in humility. The rishi said finally: "This knowledge comes in a flash. We must pursue and develop it further. That is our object in life; for, God is Truth. All knowledge is His limbs. Penance and doing good to others are the means of furthering that knowledge."

This story occurs in the great Upanishad called Kena.

3. Gautama Buddha

No one can deny the serenity one experiences while gazing at a Buddha statue; which is why irrespective of one’s beliefs, a Buddha statue for Vastu home has become a pop culture phenomenon, and makes for an aesthetic focal point. Gautam Buddha represents enlightenment, equilibrium, and inner calm. Statues of Gautam Buddha are auspicious & harbingers of good fortune, according to Vastu Shastra and Feng Shui. Placing Buddha statues in different parts of the house, according to Vastu, might affect your psychological health and harmony. When properly positioned at home, the Buddha statue encourages beneficial life energy.

The sleeping/reclining and nirvana Buddha statue depicts Shakyamuni Buddha in his final moments, with his right hand supporting his head. The monument depicts the generosity that comes with enlightenment, as well as the possibility of breaking the cycle of rebirth. The reclining Buddha represents the kind of peace that individuals should strive for throughout their life. For domestic calm, the sleeping Buddha should face west.

13" Lord Buddha in Bhumisparsha Mudra In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

Bhumisparsha Mudra as well as its installation on a Buddha statue ‘Bhumisparsha,’ the earth-touching stance symbolizes Buddha’s enlightenment. His legs are crossed, his left hand is resting on his lap with the palm facing up, and his right hand is resting on his right leg with the fingers pointing down. This is one of Lord Buddha’s most well-known positions. Place this form in the direction of eternal wisdom, which is east. The centre of your home is also a good choice because it is associated with earth elements.

The Varada mudra (favourable mudra) signifies offering, welcome, charity, giving, compassion and sincerity. Mudras are a non-verbal mode of communication and self-expression in Buddhism, consisting of hand gestures and finger- postures. The Varada Mudra, one of the most important mudras in Buddhism. This mudra embodies the connection between giving and forgiveness. Someone who gives will be forgiven, whilst someone who forgives will be richly blessed. Forgiveness is a challenging facet of human nature, but the open hand of this gesture encourages the art of forgiveness in the practitioner.

The dhyana (or meditation mudra) is commonly used in the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, a path of compassion for all living beings. With this hand gesture, you place the right hand on top of the left hand, palms face up and thumbs lightly touching. The thumbs touch to symbolize the union and enlightenment of masculine and feminine in mind, body, and spirit. Typically this mudra is depicted with the hands resting in the lap or at the heart center. Since dhyana mudra is connected to meditation and contemplation, it would be supportive for the meditation area of your home.

17" Lord Buddha in Dhyana Mudra (Robes Decorated with Lotus Flowers)

The vitarka (teaching or discussion) mudra is used with Buddhist iconography to symbolize the transmission of the dharma, or the truth teachings of the Buddha. In this mudra, the thumb and index fingers touch, creating a circle that symbolizes an uninterrupted flow of wisdom. The other three fingers point up towards the heavens with the palm facing outward. This is held at around chest level. Vitarka mudra can invite receiving and discussing teachings for growth and awakening into your life. Rooms such as a library, study, and or the Gen/Knowledge area of the home would benefit from imagery of this mudra.

The bodhisattva seated in meditation is among the most iconic Buddhist images. You may be wondering what does bodhisattva mean? In brief, a bodhisattva is anyone who has dedicated their own awakening to the benefit of all others. There are historic bodhisattvas we look to for inspiration, but anyone can be a bodhisattva, including you. In Mahayana Buddhism, the bodhisattva is someone who has taken a vow to put others first. Ordinarily, we are self-centred beings. We tend to think of ourselves first, and we’re primarily concerned with our own happiness, gain and fame. As we take the first steps on our meditation journey, we bring along these me-first attitudes. Our meditation goals centre on improving our own lives and becoming happier, wiser human beings. But with daily meditation, we develop a greater sense of compassion and selflessness. We discover true happiness comes from ensuring the happiness of others, and that just like us, everyone only wants to be free from their pain. As we heal ourselves, we naturally become inclined to want to heal others. Enter the bodhisattva ideal, one of the primary differences between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. In Mahayana Buddhism, the goal is not only to relieve our own pain and suffering, but to develop into a powerfully compassionate being who is capable of healing the pain of all beings everywhere.

Following the example of the historical Buddha, who gave up the comfort of his palace for the sake of all others, the bodhisattva says, let me be the one to do the work.

13" (Tibetan Buddhist Deity) Lapis Healing Buddha In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

Then there is Namaste Buddha – To many Buddhists, “Namaste” is more than a commonly spoken greeting. It is not just a salutation, it’s a sign of genuine respect and good will. More importantly, bowing to another helps us overcome the obstacle of pride, a major obstacle to Buddhist practice. The mudra Anjali, which is associated with “Namaste”—the hands clasped in front of the heart, fingers pressed (see below)—is ubiquitous to nearly all schools of Buddhism, and has its root in Hindu practice, and the greeting “Namaste.” Buddhists typically bow as a cure for negative attachment to ego and vanity, which binds one to samsara. Often, non-Buddhists see the action of bowing as “worship”. However, to bow to an elder, friend, guru, statue of the Buddha, or even a stranger is a sign of respect rather than devotion. The bow of respect contributes tangibly to the path away from attachment. The attachment to ego is literally crushed.

4. Ganesha

Lord Ganesha is arguably the most important, and much-revered deity in the whole of Hindu religion, mythology and culture. You can bet you will find at least one Murti, painting or any other manifestation/representation of the Lord in every Hindu household for he is worshipped as the bestower of boons and remover of obstacles. It is for this reason that a brief Ganapati-Puja is done before commencing any function, gathering or even when cracking a business deal. With interesting anecdotes to instances from mythological scriptures, his life story is often narrated on many occasions and it is only obvious the Lord is depicted in various forms too. But did you know that each such depiction has a spiritual significance and choosing the right idol or Murti for your home or workplace can make all the difference and bring in positive and radiant energy in your space and everyday life?

26" Chaturbhuja Lord Ganesha | Brass Statue

Ganesha is the unifying god of all eastern religions. He is accepted by Vaishnavites as well as Shaivites, also the Buddhists and Jains. According to Hindu mythology, he is the restored son of Lord Shiva & Goddess Paravati. Because of regional differences, there are various myths & beliefs about the birth of Ganesha. The one is he was created by Paravati and in another myth, he was created by Lord Shiva & Goddess Paravati. One of the myths about born of Bal Ganesha is he appeared mysteriously and was discovered by Shiva and Parvati. Some people believe that he was born from goddess Malini (elephant-headed goddess) after she drank the bathwater of Parvati bathwater that had been thrown in the river. He also has a brother Kartikeya (God of war), who is also known as Skanda and Murugan. He is married with Riddhi & Siddhi where Riddhi is prosperity and Siddhi is spiritual power. He also has two sons name Shubh & Labh.

The word Ganesha is a Sanskrit word where Gana means a group, multitude, or categorical system and the word Isha means lord or master. Therefore, Ganesha means the Lord of the Gaas. Ganpati is worshipped on many religious and secular occasions especially at the beginning of starting a business or buying & vehicle. As Ganpati Bappa is the most popular deity in India so he is worshipped by almost all castes and in all parts of the country. It is believed that the presence of Ganesha grants success, prosperity & protection against adversity. Festivals associated with him are Ganesh Chaturthi/Vinayaka Chaturthi and Ganesh Jayanti (Birthday of Ganesha). Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated in the Sukla Paksha (the fourth day of the waxing moon) in the month of Bhadrapada (August/ September). Ganesh Jayanti is celebrated on the Chaturthi of the Sukla Paksha (fourth day of the waxing moon) in the month of Magha (January/ February).

Lord Ganesha or Ganpati resides in the first chakra/ root chakra, also known as Muladhara chakra. This chakra is the principle on which the manifestation/ outward expansion of primordial Divine Force rests. Ganpati has a permanent abode in every being at the Muladhara or Root Chakra. Essentially, Ganesha holds support and guides all the other chakras to govern the forces that propel the wheel of life. One must alter a Ganesha Shaligram Shila before initiating any good/ new work, and pay respect to the Lord Ganesha. Ganesh Shaligram removes all the fears and worshipper of this Shila gets his way out when he has no hopes for the accomplishment of a certain work. It is very exotic, powerful, auspicious, extremely striking, emits high radiance and has an extraordinarily levels of enregy. With this Shila, one should also worship the Shivaling Shaligram, Shiv Parvati Shaligram, Shiv Nabh Shaligram, Lakshmi Shaligram, Maha Lakshmi Yantra etc for better results. Ganesh Shila is also preferred for wealth and elimination of obstacles. It is extremely smooth, lustrous, small sized, perfectly shaped, cold to touch and has flawless impressions.

5. Nataraja

The significance of the Nataraja sculpture is said to be that Shiva is shown as the source of all movement within the cosmos, represented by the arch of flames. The purpose of the dance is to release men from illusion of the idea of the "self" and of the physical world. The cosmic dance was performed in Chidambaram in South India, called the centre of the universe by some Hindus. The gestures of the dance represent Shiva's five activities, creation (symbolized by the drum), protection (by the "fear not" hand gesture), destruction (by the fire), embodiment (by the foot planted on the ground), and release (by the foot held aloft).

72" Superfine Large Lord Nataraja (Shiva) Dancing On Apasmara

The symbolism of Siva Nataraja is religion, art and science merged as one. In God's endless dance of creation, preservation, destruction and paired graces is hidden a deep understanding of our universe. Aum Namah Shivaya.  Bhashya Nataraja, the King of Dance, has four arms. The upper right hand holds the drum from which creation issues forth.  The lower right hand is raised in blessing, betokening preservation.  The upper left hand holds a flame, which is destruction, the dissolution of form.  The right leg, representing obscuring grace, stands upon Apasmarapurusha, a soul temporarily earth-bound by its own sloth, confusion and forgetfulness.  The uplifted left leg is revealing grace, which releases the mature soul from bondage.  The lower left-hand gestures toward that holy foot in assurance that Siva's grace is the refuge for everyone, the way to liberation.  The circle of fire represents the cosmos and especially consciousness.  The all-devouring form looming above is Mahakala, "Great Time."  The cobra around Nataraja's waist is Kundalini Shakti, the soul-impelling cosmic power resident within all.  Nataraja's dance is not just a symbol.  It is taking place within each of us, at the atomic level, this very moment.  The Agamas proclaim, "The birth of the world, its maintenance, its destruction, the soul's obscuration and liberation are the five acts of His dance."

6. Krishna

In 3228 BCE in Mathura, India, a child was born who was destined to reshape the spiritual and temporal destiny of mankind—Sri Krishna. In his 125 years of life, Sri Krishna made an indelible impression upon mankind’s collective consciousness—re-educating the world about devotion and dharma as well as the ultimate reality. His life was a model for people in days past, the modern world and surely for those in ages to come. Seeing Krishna as a perfect personification of divinity, to this day hundreds of millions of people pray to him, chant his names, meditate on his form and try to put his teachings into practice. His life has inspired a treasure house of poetry, music, painting, sculpture and other fine arts.

24" Brass Lord Krishna Playing Flute

Bhagwan Krishna’s life presented in Hindu scriptures can be divided into 3 phases – The Earliest life, the Family life and the public life. In the tenth Skanda (the tenth book under Srimad Bhagavatam), Vyasa Rishi describes to us the earliest life of Krishna and his homely life, more generally known as his personal life. Ranging from the birth of Shree Krishna until the death of Kamsa defines the early stages of Krishna’s life. Krishna’s rendezvous with Virasunda, the time till he married Rukmini, the divine incarnation of Lakshmi Devi, and furthermore, also his meeting with the certain local kings, represents his family life. However, the public or social life of Krishna is majorly shown and found in the epic Mahabharata. It isn’t available in Gita, Purana or any other manuscript. Rishi Vyasa has beautifully distinguished between the early family life and later public life, defining only the family life in Shrimad Bhagavatam, and the public life in Mahabharata. The complete essence of Krishna’s life is truly found when one reads both Shrimad Bhagavatam and Mahabharata. Thus, it can be said that Mahabharata follows Shrimad Bhagavatam.

7. Shiva

Shiva is one of the three supreme gods found in Hindu mythology. He is known as the destroyer while the other gods are the creator (Brahma) and the preserver (Vishnu). While the other gods are responsible for the creation and perseverance of the earth, Shiva must destroy it in order to recreate it.

As far as the appearance of Shiva is concerned, Shiva is usually shown in a yogic position. He has a blue face and throat while his body is either white or blue, depending on the artistic representation. He has a third eye, which represents his insight and wisdom. Some believe that the extra eye holds onto his untamed energy. Shiva was once distracted while worshipping by Kama, the love god. It is said that Shiva opened his third eye out of anger and Kama was immediately consumed by fire. Shiva is also shown with a cobra necklace that signifies his power over dangerous creatures. It is also said that the cobra symbolizes Shiva’s power of destruction. Just as the snake sheds its skin to make way for new skin, Shiva destroys to make room for recreation. Shiva is also shown with a trident, which represents the three functions of the Hindu triumvirate. It should also be noted that while other gods are shown with lavish clothing and belongings, Shiva is usually shown with simple clothing and backgrounds. But his wife is usually shown on the side of him as their relationship is equal. Shiva is also shown as a smiling and tranquil god, despite being the destroyer.

84" (7 Feet) Brass Super Large Bhagawan Shiva | Handmade

According to the myth, Brahma and Vishnu were having an argument. They each thought that they were the strongest god. Suddenly, in the middle of the argument, a blazing pillar suddenly appeared. Its branches and roots reached farther than the ends of the earth and heavens. Brahma transformed himself into a goose and flew to the tip top of the pillar, but he could not find it. Vishnu transformed into a boar and tunnelled through the earth to find the roots of the pillar. Neither of the gods could find the end of the top or bottom. They returned to where they started just in time to see Shiva appeared from the inside of the pillar. They immediately knew that Shiva had great power and they immediately knew he was an equal and fellow ruler of the universe.

Shiva is also sometimes called the Lord of Dance. It is said that the rhythm of dance serves as a metaphor for the balance of the universe. The Tandav is his most important dance. It is known as the cosmic dance of death and it is only to be performed when the universe needs to be destroyed. One day, there was to be a prayer ceremony with all the gods. Offerings were to be made but Shiva was not invited. He had married Sati, the daughter of the party’s host, and was being punished. Sati was upset that her husband was being disrespected and intensely prayed before jumping into the fire burning at the ceremony. Shiva, even though he wasn’t present, immediately knew what had happened and became angry.

17" Shiva Seated With Parvati Next To Him, Ganesha On Their Lap In Brass | Handmade | Made In India

He was so upset that he began the dance meant to end the universe. The gods who were present at the ceremony tried to calm down Shiva. They scattered the ashes of his wife over the dancing god, which stopped Shiva from completing the dance. Instead, he went into a deep meditation in memory of his wife. He ignored all of his other duties while he grieved. Sati was eventually reborn as Parvati. Shiva came out of his meditation and grief. The two went on to have a marriage full of love and patience. Shiva is said to have appeared from a giant blazing pillar and does not have parents. Devi, the Mother-goddess, is Shiva’s consort, though she is also Sati and Parvati. It is believed that they live in the Himalayas in the Kailash mountains.

There are a few other symbols that distinct Shiva from others. His half-open eyes are said to symbolize the cycle of the universe. When he opens his eyes, a new cycle of creation starts. But if he ever closes them, this is the start of the end of the universe. There are three lines of ashes on Shiva’s forehead. They are known as the Vighuti and are meant to symbolize the immortality of Shiva and his manifested glory. Shiva is usually shown wearing the skin of an elephant and deer. The elephant skin represents pride while the deer skin symbolizes the flickering mind. Wearing both shows that Shiva has conquered both vices. Shiva also wears a necklace made from 108 beads formed from seeds of the Rudraksha tree. The beads are said to represent all the elements used in the creation of the world. The necklace illustrates how Shiva is firm in his laws and strictly maintains law and order.

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