Art, Myths and Visual Culture of South Asia

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Item Code: NAC854
Author: Piotr Balcerowicz
Publisher: Manohar Publishers And Distributors
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788173049514
Pages: 320 (28 B/W And 10 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.7 Inch X 6.5 Inch
Weight 830 gm
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Book Description
From the Jacket

In Collaboration: Jerzy Malinowski.

The study of South Asia Art requires not only expert knowledge on an art historian but also sound philological proficiency and cultural competence of an indologist. This calls for a close cooperation of specialists in both fields. The present volume of interdisciplinary character is just this a solid exemplification of this vital principle.

The volume presents a collection of stimulating and inspiring papers linked by a common theme which incorporates various aspects of art, religion, myths parables, symbols literature and visual culture of the region of South Asia. The researchers interests go in certain aspects far beyond the geographical boundaries of South Asia and reach out to South East Asia and Even to Europe and Far East, revealing close cultural linkages and influence. The collection offers an entirely new material which explores a range of important motives and themes concerned with the art and visual culture of the region of South Asia and partially with South East Asia.

The authors examine a wide range of aspects of South Asian Art, including sculpture painting and decorative art, related to religious practice temple consecration rituals mythology and cult eroticism and spread of artistic and mythological motives from South Asia to other parts of the world.

About the Author

Professor of South Asian Studies at the University of Warsaw, Specializes in Indian philosophies religions (Including Jainism) and culture as well as in intercultural relations conflict management and contemporary history of Asia (South Asia, Central Asia and the middle East). He is an author of about 90 papers and books. As a founder of an NGO education for peace he brings development and (including the construction of Schools) in Afghanistan Pakistan and Africa.

Jerzy Malinowski
Jerzy Malinowski is president of the Polish Institute of world Art Studies Prof. of history of art, head of the departments of history of modern and oriental Art at the Nicolaus copemicus University (Torun) former deputy director of the institute of art of the polish academy of sciences deputy director of the National Museum in Warsaw Chairman of the scientific council of the Jewish historical institute in Warsaw and organizer of international conferences on art.


The volume presents a collection of papers linked by a common theme which incorporates various aspects of art, religion, myths, symbols literature and visual culture of the region of South Asia but in certain aspects goes beyond the geographical boundaries and reaches out to South East Asia.

The collection offers an entirely new material which explores a range of important motives and themes concerned with the art and visual culture of the region of South Asia and partially sculpture painting and decorative art, related to religious practice mythology and cult, politics and power as well as the history and spread of artistic and mythological motives from South Asia to other parts of the world.

Monika Zin (The Parable of The man in the well: Its travels and its pictorial traditions from Amaravati to today) investigates a fascinating journey which an Indian Buddhist motif primarily known from the sites of Nagarjunakonda and Amaravati made to various parts of Asia and Europe and analyses how the parable was represented in various pictorial traditions. Her meticulous examination unveils a fascinating nexus of narrative, mythological artistic and historical layers and themes which lie behind the parable of the man in the well and its numerous versions in Europe and Asia.

In her study of the textual and archaeological evidence for temple consecration rituals in the Hindu tradition of South and South East Asia Anna Slaczka (Temple Consecration rituals in the Hindu tradition of South and South East Asia A Study of the textual and archaeological evidence) demonstrates how consecration ritual practice spread from South Asia to the regions of South East Asia how it was reflected in artefacts and how important it is to correlate archaeological findings with textual evidence of Sanskrit treatises. A research with closely combines and expertise in textual sources and sound knowledge of archaeology can certainly lead to a better understanding of culture and art, and yield important and revealing results.

Two papers delve on the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and its reflection in Sri Lankan art, architecture and painting. Interestingly, the spread of Buddhism and its later development, especially in confrontation with external colonial forces, was closely linked to political power, attempts to win it or preserve it, and to the personage of the king, Both studies come up with ample evidence of how politics and royal power reshaped and determined further development of religious mythical ‘history’ of Buddhism on the island, the topography of the places of pilgrimage, historical myths, the interpretation of the history, the contents and style of paintings and murals. In the first study, Silke K. Yasmin Fischer (‘The Spread of Buddhism from India to Sri Lanka: Its Visual Representation’) examines how the Buddhist legend of the monk Mahinda arriving to Sri Lanka and bringing Buddhism to the island is revitalized and utilized in concrete political and historical circumstances which eventually introduce a new tradition and shape the way the beginnings of Buddhism in Sri Lanka are perceived, interpreted and disseminated by the Sri Lankan Buddhists themselves. And important instrument in the process and a reflection of it is, of course, pictorial tradition, which incorporates various media ranging from temple narrative paintings to modem state school textbooks. Asoka de Zoysa’s detailed analysis of a selection of images from Buddhist temples of the Kandyan Era (‘Reading images and interpreting the context: Differentiating Between Iconography and Iconology According to Erwin Panofsky’s Three Phase Analysis’) pursues the problem of the junction of religion, politics and art, and of how political programme influenced the topography of religious pilgrimages sides, architecture and temple paintings, resulting in rewriting history reflected both in text and painting. On the theoretical level, the author takes recourse to the methodology developed by Erwin Panofsky and the distinction of iconography and iconology. In short, his study unveils facts and events hidden behind the surface of painted murals.

Valdas Jaskunas’ paper (‘Building Visual Order in Kashmir. Analysis of Architectural Structures as Described in the Visnu-dharmottara-purana’) shifts the focus from the southernmost part to the north of the Indian Peninsula. He analyses some passages devoted to architecture and temple models in the Visnu-dhamóttarapurana and compares them to the actual structures found in Kashmir. Of particular interest is the model of the sarvato-bhadra type of temple which is related to the iconographical program of Palicaratra Visuism. In his analysis, the material devoted to architecture found in the Visnu-dharmôttara-purana proves to be a conscious attempt to establish a new visual order, which echoes the ascendance of Visnuism and its domination over Buddhism in the region. As it usually happens, previous architectonic tradition or topography of sacred sites is not obliterated, but is rather creatively adopted by the new religious tradition and political elites in order to gain legitimacy and buttress their control and influence.

Barbara Grabowska (‘Acts of Master Vivakarman in Bengali Poems’) takes up a theme of how art, artistic endeavour and artisanship were conceived in myth and literature. To illustrate the process, she analyses the motif of Vivakarman, the mythical divine artisan, and his artistic undertakings the way they were depicted in Bengali religious tradition and poems.

An image of quite a homogenous material culture and art, especially with respect to terracotta art, in the Gangetic Valley of the golden ages of the Gupta period emerges from the paper of Samir Kumar Mukherjee (‘Terracotta Art in the Gangetic Valley under the Guptas’), who inspects a range of terracotta figurines found at various archaeological sites in the Gangetic valley. The quality and workmanship of terracotta objects, finer than in previous periods, reflects a general improvement in economic and social conditions during the reign of the Guptas. Mukherjee’s findings reveal a close link between the themes displayed in the terracotta figurines and various aspects of social life and mythology.

In pursuing the imperative to study of art in itself, David Smith’s paper (‘Facial Expression in the Erotic Art of Khajuräho. A Preliminary Investigation’) offers a new take on temple sculptures of Khajuräho, whereby he slightly diverges from traditional historians’ approach to the erotic art of Khajuräho. He discusses the erotic sculpture of Khajuraho in terms that are somewhat parallel to the type of study which is the norm in Western art history. Smith analyses the expressive con tents of the sculptures, with the emphasis on facial expression, and scrutinizes the range of emotions expressed and images conjured up by the sculptor, searching for interpretative underpinnings of and artistic practice behind the sculptural forms, thereby disclosing the individualism and originality of the artists.

The team of M. Singh, R.S. Trambake, D.A. Gupta (‘Chemical Conservation of Hinayana Paintings of the 2nd BCE, Cave No. 10, Ajanta’) brings in a very practical dimension, vital to the survival of art and artefacts which art historians examine, namely the problems of restoration and conservation of ancient paintings and murals They focus on chemical conservation of Hinayana paintings of the 2nd BCE of No. 10, Ajanta, briefly presenting the history of the murals, their discovery and subsequent problems related to their preservation. Various conservation techniques of the past proved ultimately unsuccessful, but even latest methods of preservation of the paintings may prove futile when confronted with a large number of visitors which in itself poses a serious threat to invaluable pieces of art in an collection and monuments all over the world.

Piotr Balcerowicz’s study (The body and the Cosmos in Jaina Mythology and Art) investigates the roots history and subsequent development of the image of the cosmic man (loka purusa) featuring in Jaina Art and cosmology the relation of the cosmic man to Mount Meru and to the concept of liberation.

The present volume has been inspired by and is in a sense a follow up of an International conference on Art and Visual culture of India which was held on 18-19 April 2008 in Warsaw Poland. It was the first conference devoted strictly to the Art of South Asia and attracted scholars from Poland and Abroad including great Britain, Holland, Austria and Lithuania. Some of these presentations are included here. The conference was organized by (1) the polish Society of Oriental art (now the Polish Institute of world Art Studies) represented by Jerzy Malinowski Dorota Kaminska and Agnieszka Staszczyk of the section of Oriental Art, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun and by (2) Piotr Balcerowicz (no affiliation) with active participants of the members of the Deparment of South Asia Faculty of oriental studies the University of Warsaw. The program of the conference comprised the history of architecture sculpture, painting and decorative art from antiquity to modern times as well as the iconography mythology and symbolism of South Asia antiquity to modern times as well as the iconography mythology and symbolism of South Asia. The proceedings of the conference were subsequently published in Polish as Sztuka I kultura wiszulana Indii (Art and visual culture of India) edited by Piotr Balcerowicz and Jerzy Malinowski Wydawnictwo Dig Warszawa 2010.


Table of Transcription of Sanskrit terms 13
Note On Contributiors 15
Myth, Parable And Art
Barbara Grabowska
Acts of Master visvakarman in Bengali Poems21
Monika Zin
The Parable of the Man in the well its travels and its pictorial traditions from Amaravati to today33
Piotr Balcerowicz
The Body and the Cosmos in Jaina mythology and art Silk K. Yasmin Fischer95
Silke K. Yasmin Fischer
The Spread of Buddhism from India to Sri Lanka; its Visual representation153
Ritual Sex and Power
Anna Slaczka
Temple Consecration Rituals in the Hindu Tradition of South and South East Asia: A Study of the Textual and Archaeological Evidence167
David Smith
Facial expression in the Erotic Art of Khujuraho A preliminary investigation 183
Valdas Jaskunas
Building Visual order in Kashmir Analysis of architectural structures as described in the Visnu dharmottara purana203
Cultural Heritage
Samir Kumar Mukherjee
Terracotta Art in the Gangetic Valley under the Guptas 231
M. Singh R.S. Trambake D.A. Gupta
Chemical Conservation of Hinayana Paintings of the 2nd BCE Cave No. 10 Ajanta251
Asoka De Zoysa
Reading Images and interpreting the context: Differentiating between Iconography and Iconology according to Erwin Pamofsky’s three phase analysis 260
General Index 293
Appendix: Life of Illustrations and color plates 299
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