Category Archives: Culture

Amrita Sher-Gil

The Life of Amrita Sher-Gil

Amrita Sher-Gil is a female pioneer of modern Indian art in what was formerly a male dominion (Sivan G 108). With a talent for hybridity in art, she incorporated Western techniques and visuals as well as Eastern. Her personality was one of confidence, blunt, and comfortable promiscuity between men and allegedly women (Dalmia 33, 38: Mzezewa 2018, np); likewise, her paintings portrayed women as strong and powerful while capturing the “neglected” areas of a woman’s life (Sharma, Jha, & Gupta 254). She showed early signs of rejection of the patriarchy that would reflect in her life and her works. Sher-Gil was born in Budapest, Hungary to a Sikh philosopher father named Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia, and an equally talented Hungarian mother named Marie Antoniette Gottesmann on January 30th, 1913 (“Cultural India”). According to Dalmia, Amrita was baptized in 1918 as a Roman Catholic and she was partly Jewish (11).

At the outbreak of World War One, the Sher-Gil family moved to Dunaharaszti in 1916. During this period of four years in the village life, Amrita showed interest in coloured crayons to copy toys around her and drew folk songs that her mother would sing to her (Dalmia 14: Sivan G 107). After moving back to Budapest briefly, political instability arose, and the family moved back to India in 1921. Despite her unfamiliarity with formal education, Amrita was enrolled in Santa Annuciata School in Florence, Italy in January 1924. Amrita rebelled against the Roman Catholic regime of the school with a nude portrait and withdrew, but was enrolled into another Catholic school in Simla, India to which she rebelled again (Dalmia 19-20). The Sher-Gil family stayed in India from June 1924 to April 1929.

In 1927, Amrita’s uncle Ervin Baktay encouraged her to move to Paris to develop her artistic skill as well as paint from live models (Dalmia 23-25). While in Paris between the period of 1930-1932, Amrita created over sixty paintings which were mostly of self-portraits and young women (Dalmia 31). Amrita attended the Ecole des Beaux Art from 1929-1934, which is associated with her interest in line and colour (Tillotson 59). In these Paris years, Amrita’s self portraits began to show a change in her personality as she became more confident. This is when she appears to have grown to become her own vivacious person, as well as becoming comfortable in her own sexuality. She began to long for India after five years of gaining new techniques in Paris, and subsequently left in 1934 for her ancestral home in Amritsar.

While back in India, she left behind her Western clothes and vowed to wear saris for the rest of her life (Dalmia 59). Her painting palette began to switch and contain recurring ideas since being in India. It is there in Simla where Amrita starts to depict the poverty in India. She moved to her family’s estate in 1936, but then began a tour of South India with Barada Ukil in which she visited the Ajanta and Ellora caves. (Dalmia 79). These cave paintings inspired some of her work in the future and seemed to have awoken something in her. The winning of the gold medal at the annual exhibition of the Bombay Art Society on January 15th, 1937 occurred when she was touring South India (Shakeel 9). This was also when she began to be noticed.

After travelling to two major temple complexes in India, Amrita was influenced by the religious life. In Trivandrum, she found inspiration in the colours of life. The Indian prince (maharaja) and the Prince’s wife (maharani) in Trivandrum sent for, then refused to buy Amrita’s paintings because they were not within the norm. Her artistic style never was within the norm, as she painted troubled women with expressions of oppression (Mzezewa 2018, np). She then ventured to Cape Comorin, where she stayed for eleven days, and incorporated her South Indian experiences into her paintings. After a visit to the Cochin frescoes, Allahabad, and Dehli, she returned to Simla and “regurgitated” her memories into paintings (Dalmia 86). In the year 1937, Amrita created what became known as the south Indian trilogy; hence Bride’s Toilet, Brahmacharis, and South Indian Villagers Going to the Market were created to encapsulate the exposure to form and colour Amrita saw in south India (Dalmia 91: Sivan G 117).

Amrita had become increasingly popular with a unique and identifiable style, and yet she felt as though people were misunderstanding her paintings. Her paintings were praised for showing Indian poverty with sympathy, but criticized for showing the countries’ bad side, or even aestheticizing the poor (Tillotson 68). Amrita’s sister Indira Sher-Gil got married in 1937, which caused Amrita’s paintings to stop as the house became engulfed in turmoil (Dalmia 99). Amrita ventured to Lahore for an art exhibition, where she met an important art critic whom she became close with, Dr. Charles Fabri. He, along with others, provided her with truth and criticism to improve her style.

After making two paintings in Lahore and feeling regenerated from the trip, she returned to her family estates and married her cousin Victor Egan. Her parents disapproved, but that seemed to make her more determined (Dalmia 108). Before Amrita and Victor were to be married in Budapest, Amrita got pregnant. Victor arranged for an abortion, which was carried out soon after. Amrita’s parents continued to be hostile and reluctant to the two, but Amrita and Victor persisted. The two made agreements in their marriage to not have children, to have a quiet wedding, and that Amrita was also allowed to see other men (Dalmia 112-114). Victor was called out to Kiskunhalas for military duty and sent for Amrita to come live with him, which she did. She also went with him when he moved to Lake Balaton, and then they moved back to Kiskunhalas where Amrita took to painting again.

With the rising of more political instability, Victor and Amrita left Hungary in June 1939 to Genoa and boarded a ship to Colombo. The couple finally reached Simla to live with Amrita’s parents, but her mother was extremely hostile to the couple. The couple were relieved when Amrita’s cousin Kirpal Singh Majithi invited them to live with him in Saraya but were unsatisfied in finding inspiration or work (Dalmia 122). Victor finally attempted to settle things with Amrita’s mother in 1940 after her relentless hostility to him, but to no avail. It was as if the turning point in Amrita’s relationship with her mother also made a turning point in Amrita. After a period of depression, Amrita’s spirits were lifted again. She now began to link form with context in her paintings with the help of the Mughals, who were Muslims who ruled over a large Hindu majority country. Amrita and Victor visited Sonepur Mela in Bihar and Amrita took to painting elephants, which began another turn to other life in Amrita’s paintings (Dalmia 138). And yet, Amrita began to feel herself become sad again even while practicing new art techniques like sculpturing. Amrita hit an artist’s block before her friend, Karl Khandalavala, came to visit but became stuck again when he left. She is said to have felt defeated and depressed, as though her artistic muse had gone. Things were not going good for either Amrita or Victor, so they set out to Lahore in 1941. Victor then moved back to Saraya, and Amrita moved from Lahore to Simla to find her sister Indira and her husband had taken up her art studio. After a fight with Indira over Amrita always being “in the limelight,” Amrita left without a single bag to her old friend Helen’s house (Dalmia 157).

            By now, Amrita was a recognized original painter. Amrita left Simla in August 1941 for Saraya with Victor, then left again to Lahore in September. The couple found a place and Amrita enjoyed life again as the two met and congregated with intellectuals and artists. Finally comfortable, Amrita scheduled an exhibition in December of 1941. Amrita began to work on her final painting that depicted animal forms and the Indian landscape, though it was never finished. Two weeks before her exhibition, Amrita fell ill. Amrita had been sick with the Spanish flu, acute tonsillitis, and a sexual illness, but this was different (Dalmia 13, 35, 80). She died on December 5th at midnight from peritonitis after being visited by three doctors, one of which was her husband. She was only 28, leaving her “artistic voyage… unfinished” (Dalmia 173: Sharma, Jha, & Gupta 254). Her family decided to have a Sikh funeral for her on December 7th, 1941 and her body was cremated on the bank of the river Ravi (Shakeel 15). In her wake, many of her friends and family thought of her as she remained immortal in her works. There are allegations that she passed because of food poisoning, her husband not having enough knowledge to treat her, or a failed abortion (Dalmia 179-180: Mzezewa 2018, np).

            The life on Amrita Sher-Gil can be described as incredibly ambitious, bold, and always changing. Her life was reflected in her art in that it was always shifting, whether leaning more to her European techniques, or to her Indian ideas. Amrita is described as having a “ferocity of mind and sharpness of tongue, combined with an unashamed openness about her own behaviour” (Zaman 2020, np). Her paintings portrayed early ideas of feminism in that it showed overshadowed women, and people who were oppressed. Her comfortability in her sexuality was also a bold notion in her time, and yet she was blunt and open. Some say it is narcissism, some say confidence. Overall, as said by Sivan G, Amrita was a significant, “volatile personality amongst the artists of colonial India” who shaped modern Indian art with her European and Eastern hybridity (106).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Britannica Academic (2013) “Amrita Sher-Gil.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://academic-eb-com.ezproxy.uleth.ca/levels/collegiate/article/Amrita-Sher-Gil/599290#

Cultural India (2020) Amrita Sher-Gil: Fact Sheet. Retrieved from https:/www.culturalindia.net/Indian-art

Dalmia, Yashodhara (2006) Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life. New York: Penguin.

G., Sivan (2014) “Mimesis and Beyond a Major Philosophical Trend in Modern Indian Painting.” Shodhganga: Reservoir of Indian Theses: 103-129. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10603/80281

Mzezewa, Tariro (2018) Overlooked No More: Amrita Sher-Gil, a Pioneer of Indian Art. New York Times. No page numbers available.

Shakeel, Talat (1998) “Amrita Shergil and Bengal School of Painting.” Shodhganga: Reservoir of Indian Theses, pp. 1-113. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10603/110780

Sharma, Mandakini, Jha, Pashupati, and Gupta, Ila (2016) “Amrita Sher-Gill’s Paintings: A Cultural Evaluation.” THAAP Journal 2016: 254-265.

Tillotson, G.H.R (1997) “A Painter of Concern: Critical Writings on Amrita Sher-Gil.” India International Centre, Vol. 24, No. 4: 57-72. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/23002294

Zaman, Sahar (2020) Amrita Sher-Gil: A Heroine of Two Nations. The Quint. Retrieved from https://www.thequint.com/lifestyle/amrita-sher-gil-a-heroine-of-two-nations-artist-india-pakistan-self-portrait-freedom-struggle-oil-paintings-canvas. No page numbers available.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Ajanta Caves

Bengal Renaissance

Bombay Art Society

Brahmacharis

Bride’s Toilet

Cochin Frescoes

Ecole des Beaux Art School

Ellora Caves

Cultural Hybridity

Maharaja

Maharani

Marie Antoniette Gottesmann

Modern Indian Art

Santa Annuciata School

Sikh tradition

Three Girls

Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Majithia

Victor Egan

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://amrita-sher-gil.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amrita_Sher-Gil

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/emit/hd_emit.htm

https://www.thequint.com/neon/amrita-shergil-art-paintings-life-portrait-of-an-artist-as-a-young-woman

https://www.wikiart.org/en/amrita-sher-gil

Article written by: Allison Vonk (February 2020) who claims authorship of this content.

Amrita Sher-Gil

Amrita Sher-Gil was born on January 30th, 1913 in Budapest, Hungary. Her father, Sardar Umrao Singh Majithia was an owner of a large amount of land that had been granted to him by the British. Originally, he was a member of the well known Majithia clan that was fighting against the British with the Sikhs, however, he switched sides and helped the British win the war. As a thanks for his contributions he was then given land and became an even wealthier, prominent member of society. His brother, Sir Sunder Singh Majithia, turned a large portion of the land into sugar factories that continued to help the family’s wealth grow (Singh 1975).  

Sher-Gil’s mother also came from a wealthy, upper class family. Marie Antoinette Gottesmann was a well known musician and opera singer though she never became a professional. She was known for her love of entertaining and keen eye for decorating. Marie was raised with a very good education (Dalmia 2006) and is the one responsible for the Roman Catholic baptism of both of her daughters, despite Catholicism not being a theology that she practiced directly or insisted on her children practicing. Chrisitianity, specifically Catholicism was something to which both girls were exposed. Amrita attended and was expelled from two Catholic schools as a child (Singh 1975).

The first eight years of Amrita’s life were spent in Hungary until the family moved to India in 1921. The family specifically rooted in Simla where Amrita and her sister began the first parts of their education (Singh 210). Sher-Gil took up a passion for drawing and quickly began an education focused on art and the expansion of her talents. The first teacher she had, Major Whitmarsh, was known to be very conventional and made Amrita draw the same things over and over until she was able to do them as realistically as possible. Major Whitmarsh was dismissed shortly after he started as Sher-Gil strongly disliked listening to him and his teaching style (Singh 211). Her second teacher, Hal Bevan Petman, maintained his position for a considerable time frame and even recommended a formal European style education in art for Amrita, claiming she had a great promise as an artist. In 1924 the family moved again to Florence, Italy, where Sher-Gil was able to study art and go to school at the School of Santa Annunciate. Unfortunately, she was expelled in less than six months as she was caught drawing nude women in class, which was against the strict orthodox rules (Singh 211). 

After the school in Florence did not work out, the family moved back to Simla, India, and Amrita began to develop the relationships that would later become so crucial for her work as many of these individuals became her models. The majority of the models from her later and most famous paintings came from the hills surrounding the Simla area, known as Saraya (Singh 211). Of course, Amrita had to continue in a formal education so she was once again enrolled in a Catholic School and was once again expelled thanks to a letter she wrote to her father that was intercepted by one of the teachers. She was writing to explain to him that she was denouncing all religions as she thought they were pointless and stifling, which was not well received by the religious staff at the school (Singh 211). 

It was not until Amrita’s uncle, Ervin Baktay, started taking an interest in her talent that her parents considered Paris as an option for a formal art based education. He was able to inspire her to focus on incorporating things from the real world in her paintings and cultivated an interest in autonomy in Sher-Gil and her work. In 1929 the family moved, yet again, to Paris for Amrita to pursue her education there (Dalmia 25). 

After first arriving in Paris, Sher-Gil painted at the school Grand Chaumiere under Pierre Vaillent until she was able to get further settled into the area. Once further settled, she began to study at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Art under Lucien Simon. It was here that she was taught to focus on the development of the human form and anatomy, as well as things like line, form and colour (Singh 212). She stayed at Ecole Nationale for almost three years and began to see her first success within the larger art community. In 1932 she was featured in an exhibition and in 1933 she was again featured, but this time won the honor of Associate of the Grand Salon. This made her the youngest individual and first Indian to win this title (Singh 213). This honor gave her the privilege of displaying two paintings at the exhibition every year (Dalmia 31). Paris is the first place we see a shift in her works from naturalism to a focus on anatomy. It has been suggested by critics that due to the influential painters around her, Sher-Gil started to incorporate the styles of painters such as Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh as they quickly became her favourites (Dalmia 30). However, it became increasingly clear to Sher-Gil that she wanted to go back to India and that is where she believed she was destined to become a great painter (Singh 1975).

In 1934 Sher-Gil returned to India and began painting on her family’s land in Simla. Almost immediately after her arrival, a large controversy surrounded her as she declined to accept an award from the Simla Fine Arts Exhibition. She had submitted ten paintings, out of which, five had been chosen by the exhibition to be displayed.  One of those five won an award but Sher-Gil felt it was a lesser option compared to the other paintings she had on display and declined the acceptance of the award. In the letter she wrote to the exhibition, she explains that the judges seemed to pick paintings that followed a very traditional view and she did not want to be set into this mold (Singh 214). Sher-Gil’s early works have been described as a literal and romanticised view of India that seems to follow a “tourist lens” of India (Dalmia 61). 

Sher-Gil settled back into India and while there she was able to gain traction as a recognized artist. In 1936 she won two prizes for self-portraits in the Delhi Fine Arts Exhibition (Singh 214). This award won her large amounts of publicity that resulted in a market for her to participate in individual commissions and solo exhibitions. In 1937 she won a gold medal in the annual exhibition which only further increased the recognition she was gaining (Dalmia 77). It is at this time that she paints her most famous works, including the South Indian Trilogy, and writes consistently that this was a happy time of her life. Sher-Gil painted upwards of 15 of her most famous paintings at this time while she traveled between Simla, Saraya and Lahore (Dalmia 2006).

 When Sher-Gil was asked why she decided to move back to India and out of the European art capital she explained that she wanted to be able to express and illustrate the country that had impacted her so much. She was known for saying that “vibrant art had to be connected to the soil of the land” (Singh 45). Sher-Gil felt that her identity was built in with the people and reality of India, and wanted to bring awareness to the lives of the poor (Dalmia 75). In simple terms, Sher-Gil felt she had only experienced India as an outsider and longed to become an insider through her paintings and the interactions they helped to stimulate with her local models (Tillotson 63). 

Sher-Gil’s original painting and drawing style was based on naturalism and keeping things as authentic to the reference as possible. She was taught to draw the same things over again to make sure that they came across as close to the original as possible. However, after she first returned to India there is a shift in her work that starts small. The colours she uses are influenced heavily by the art she was exposed to in Paris and early paintings show bright blues and greens that will eventually transition to reds and browns that develop deeper hues the more Sher-Gil uses them (Dalmia 60). In her mind, she begins to create a new style of Indian painting that is not traditional but still fundamentally Indian in spirit (Dalmia 2006). She is described as creating paintings that are modern in theory but do not follow any of the typical rules required in modern styles. While she uses clear lines and simple colours, there is still this balance between realism of the specific characters but it is done in a lucid stylization (Dalmia 90). This style is a large change from her early works which are based on realism and naturalism. Realism and Naturalism were the styles Sher-Gil was encouraged by her father for learning and she slowly moved away from them as her education expanded (Dalmia 2006). 

Sher-Gil faced many criticisms both in life and death, however, some of the most critical views of her work come from Sher-Gil herself. She noticed that over time she began to become detached both in a romantic sense as well as a humane sense (Tillotson 68). Her formalistic style was learned from other painters while she was in Paris, but it was also a conscious choice that she made. This formalism caused many individual critics to be very uncomfortable with the tensions it created in her work, mainly that it caused the feelings that form was more important than any individual details that may have been illustrated (Tillotson 65). Some critics felt that the attachment to the formalist values left a weakening of her connection to the human element in her work, to the point that some commented that it seemed she “painted colours more than subjects.”(Tillotson 65) Prioritizing form over the subject was the main critique that Sher-Gil faced and seemed to become more of an issue over time, especially voiced at some of her final works. 

In 1938, Sher-Gil married her first cousin, Dr. Victor Egan. They lived together for a few years in Hungary before moving back to Lahore in 1941. It was here in Lahore where Sher-Gil starts to paint again, completing a few small pieces before starting her final large work that was never completed. In December of 1941, Sher-Gil was struck with a mysterious illness and died two days later. She was 28 years old (Singh 216). Victor planned a Sikh style funeral for her that ended in the cremation of her body on the river Ravi (Dalmia 174). While there is no conclusive idea of the illness that killed her, there are many theories, ranging from basic things such as food poisoning or the straining and rupturing of internal organs due to picking up a heavy painting, to more extreme theories such as the deliberate killing of Sher-Gil at the hands of Victor (Dalmia 179-181).

Sher-Gil strived to express herself in a way that was different from the traditional art style that was prominent in India. In doing so she was able to create a new style and set a course for different art types to break into the artistic community. The largest collection of her works on display is housed at the National Gallery of Modern Art and while it is rare that one of her paintings goes up for sale, when it happens they are very hot items for purchase (Dalmia 207). Sher-Gil has been described as a liberator of Indian art (Singh 216) and continues to be an inspiration for not only artists within India, but also on a global scale as her work continues to captivate new audiences. 

Bibliography

Dalmia, Yashodhara (2006) Amrita Sher-Gil: A Life. New Delhi: Penguin. 

Singh, N. Iqbal (1975) “Amrita Sher-Gil.” India International Centre Quarterly 3:209-217

Singh, N. Iqbal (1984) Amrita Sher-Gil. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House

Tillotson, G.H.R. (1997) “A Painter of Concern: Critical Writings on Amrita Sher-Gil.” India International Centre Quarterly 4:57-72

Related Topics:

To see other female painters of colour:

https://sophia.smith.edu/global-modern-women-artists/

To see other famous painters from India: 

https://www.culturalindia.net/indian-art/painters/index.html

For a book on art and modernity in India: 

            Worldly affiliations: artistic practice, national identity, and modernism in India, 1930-1990 by Sonal, Khullar (available through the University of Lethbridge Library)

Related Websites: 

To see a simplified version of all of this with pictures:                                                      

https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/amrita-sher-gil-artworks-from-the-collection-of-national-gallery-of-modern-art-national-gallery-of-modern-art-ngma-new-delhi/QRaQm24R?hl=en

To see the website for the museum where most of her works are kept today:

http://www.ngmaindia.gov.in/index.asp

To see her obituary in the New York Times: 

To see some of her most popular pieces: 

https://www.wikiart.org/en/amrita-sher-gil

To see all things Amrita: 

http://amrita-sher-gil.com/

This article was written by: Tiana Williams (Spring 2020), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Raja Ravi Varma

Raja Ravi Varma was born in 1848 in Kilimanur, which was inhabited by about 200 people of the Kilimanur clan, and he later died in 1906. He was born as a Ksatriya; a part of the warrior class in the Indian caste system (Rupika 20). This caste distinction allowed him to successfully pursue a career in art because of the privilege and connections this caste holds. Ravi’s father was known as a namboothiri brahmin the highest among all brahmins in his area, while his mother was an acknowledged poet (Rupika 25). But even with these great influences and broad skillsets exposed to him, his uncle Raja Raja Varma was the one who inspired and taught him to paint. The prefix “Raja” before Ravi Varma’s name symbolizes the recognition and credit he received as a painter (Rupika 19). After years of practice and broadening his knowledge and skills, Ravi Varma submitted his first two paintings to the Fine Arts exhibition in Madras, and to people’s surprise, he was awarded a gold medal by the governor (Rupika 22). After this initial recognition he believed himself ready to begin his travels and expand his career. His travels began in Travancore, there, with his background from Kilimanur, his status, and his proximity to the royal family aided in his growth as an artist, gaining him many new opportunities (Rupika 36). Because of Varma’s orthodox background, knowledge of scriptures and classical literature, and his incredible innate ability to paint, he was able to expand his sensibilities among the court in Travancore (Rupika 37). This in turn allowed him to make important connections with the influential members of the court which led to him acquiring more opportunities for painting commissions. Varma was first known for his massive oil paintings; the style and use of oil painting was introduced by the Europeans (Rupika 38). The style and scale of his paintings allowed a broader audience to enjoy one, or many pieces of art at once rather than a smaller audience only being able to admire at close range. As oil paintings could be made on massive canvases, the idea that a painting could be moved around, hung on a wall and observed at convenience was very appealing to Varma, as his dream was to have a huge exhibition of oil paintings created by him, displayed in a gallery (Rupika 157).

Raja Ravi Varma, Self-portrait, Government Museum, Chennai

Varma became well aware of the many styles that were being introduced by the Europeans (such as oil paintings on canvas, academic realism, and chiaroscuro) but was also aware of the many traditional and historical styles that had been part of Indian culture, his very own upbringing, and traditional art for a very long time (such as the Chitrasutra, from the Vishudharmottara) (Rupika 157). With all this knowledge, one of the main modern techniques he chose to incorporate was lithography. Lithography was created just before 1800 by Aloys Senefelder and it became one of the most popular mediums of the 19th century (Davies 911). Lithography involves the practice of drawing a design onto stone with a specific grease crayon, then dampening the stone with water which absorbs into the stone but does not absorb where the design is. The artist then applies ink to the stone which adheres to the crayon design, the stone is then put through a press where the design is transferred onto paper. This allows for many copies of one design to be made and saves artists tons of time (Davies 911). Through this process he was able to create amazing calendar art, known as oleography; prints made and texturized to resemble oil paintings. This allowed Varma’s art to become even more accessible to the masses and made his beautiful work more affordable and more popular. These prints often depicted Hindu deities and allowed anyone, no matter their class distinction to have a beautiful print with the deities they worshipped, and stories and tales that were known to them. No one had attempted his particular combination of styles before, Ravi utilized the richness of ancient stories and techniques but also incorporated modern varieties which created something purely unique. He was conscious of his selection of themes, genres, and the mediums in which he desired to paint and print. His representation of historical gods and heroes, the portraits of the rich and powerful as well as the many women he portrayed allowed him to prevail and put western influences to good use when it best suited him (Rupika 158). But, his stylistic choices received heavy criticism from traditional Indian artists, as well as European artists that believed his art was too vulgar, or too subtle, and did not follow the traditional ways of each group (Pande 130). Ravi Varma’s style was something never seen before which gave him an edge over other artists of his time.

Radha on the banks of the Ganga by Raja Ravi Varma. Government Museum, Chennai

In Varma’s portraits of females, the dresses, and jewellery portrayed were used to signify class and ethnic identity. Varma’s ability to capture the realness, vividness, and glow of the jewels these women wore was unsurpassable. Varma’s color palette and skill was said to become the inspiration for many deities now portrayed in temples after his time (Pande 130). His paintings as well as prints also brought forward the beauty and pride that Indian culture held which other colonizers and cultures were not aware of. His sophisticated paintings showed the beauty and dignity of the women, and also the status and power of men. From the colonizer’s point of view, India was a dull landscape of heat and dust, filled with beggars and fakirs, but Varma’s paintings showed the dazzling people of India that no foreigner could discredit (Pande 131). His work aided in the growth and achievement of independence for India by showing the pride and joy Indian people felt and by giving them proper representation and access. He is said to have brought a new visual style and vocabulary to the Indian world of art.

In many of Varma’s paintings he makes the effort to bring light into the private life of men and women in their personal interior spaces. He used a technique called Chiaroscuro, a modern technique, to make interior spaces more compelling and more dramatic to the viewer. This was originally a western practice that Varma took on and used to his advantage in his series of men reading books (Dinkar 2). His beautiful paintings were included in the budget to decorate the homes of the royal families of Mysore and Baroda, his mythological paintings were also frequently seen in these homes. His style and broad skillset is said to bridge the gap between the ancient stories and talents of India with the new, contemporary, and western styles used today (Dinkar 6). His venture into painting deities and mythological beings that were so well known by all of the Indian population, along with his unique style and abilities allowed him to have a career of fame and success. He would become most remembered and known for his mythological paintings and prints (Thakurta 181). One of the many known paintings of Varma’s is called the ‘Hamsa Damayanti’, this images connotes the idea of beauty and womanhood in Indian life, but pictured with this beautiful woman is a swan, which carries the meaning beyond a regular woman and into the mythic character of Damayanti, who is part of an epic legend known in India. This painting is known for conveying the ideas of transformation and transmutation of values (Thakurta 182). His many images and paintings of women became popular and well known because of the myth, aura, and beauty of these figures which gave them the privileged title of ‘real life celestial beauties’ (Rupika 140). These painting were some of the first to draw awards and mounting publicity for Varma (Thakurta 180).

Kicaka approaches Draupadi disguised as Sairandhri by Raja Ravi Varma. Government Museum, Chennai.

One deity of interest to Varma was Mohini, the female form of Visnu. She is the subject of several mythological tales, and her image was used in many paintings done by Varma. He portrayed the goddess as living the normal life of an Indian woman; many of the positions she is seen in connects to forms and sequences of traditional dances, which carry immense meaning in Indian culture. She is also pictured playing instruments such as the violin, as well as playing with a ball as a symbol of togetherness (Rupika 212). Instruments and music had special meaning to Varma as they were key factors and a common activity found in his childhood home (Rupika 211). The intention behind these paintings was to give insight into the private lives of young women who were awaiting and anticipating their future life with their chosen groom. Because of this, these paintings were often aimed to appeal to male audiences because of their curiosity and fascination with women (Rupika 212). This gives more meaning to the painting as they hold traditional Indian styles and values, modern techniques, and personal connections. Varma painted with compassion, purpose, and skill, thus allowing him to convey true emotion, status, and mythologies, which gave deep worth to each painting. These aspects carried over into every one of his prints, all showing his incomparable style and displaying cherished stories held within. These amazing abilities gave him the well-earned title as an original, talented, and respected Indian artist, unforgettably known as Raja Ravi Varma. 

Bibliography and Recommended Readings

Davies, Penelope (2010). “Post-Impressionism.” Janson’s History of Art. Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 911-918.

Dinkar, Niharika (2014) “Private Lives and Interior Spaces: Raja Ravi Varma’s Scholar Paintings.” Wiley Online Library Vol. 37, Issue 3. Accessed January 30, 2020. doi-org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/10.1111/1467-8365.12085

Pande, Ira (2010) “Review: A King Among Painters” India International Centre Quarterly Vol. 37, No. 1, 128-133. Accessed January 30, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/23006462.

Rupika, Chawla (2010) Raja Ravi Varma: Painter of Colonial India. Ahmedabad, India: Mapin Publishing.

Thakurta, Tapati Guha (1986) “Westernisation and Tradition in South Indian Painting in the Nineteenth Century: The Case of Raja Ravi Varma.” Sage Publications 165-195. Accessed January 30, 2020.

Related Topics

Puranic paintings

Raja Raja Varma

Painting style in Tanjore

Academic Realism

Oil painting

Lithography

Portraiture

Epic tales           

Hindu goddesses

Chitrasutra, from the Vishudharmottara

Fine Arts exhibitions in India

Hindu deities in art

Oleography

Mythological stories

Western influence on India

Related Websites

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raja_Ravi_Varma

https://fineartamerica.com/art/paintings/raja+ravi+varma

https://www.mojarto.com/blogs/from-raja-ravi-varma-to-the-masses-calendar-art-in-india

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_deities

https://www.centrecolours.co.uk/a-printing-revolution-the-history-of-lithography

http://www.keralaculture.org/rajaravivarma/97

Article written by Camryn Smith (March 2020) who is exclusively responsible for its content.

Rajput Painting

In discussing Rajput painting, it is relevant to discuss the Mughal style of painting, which evolved at the same time, and in the same geographic area as the Rajput style (Beach 11). In Mughal painting, “consciousness of style was extreme and stylistic evolution intense and rapid” (Beach 11). Due to the rapid and dynamic development that Mughal painting underwent, is is difficult to specify typical characteristics of the style (Beach 11). However, in general, the artist is concerned with establishing a hazy and romantic atmosphere, which can be seen in the “softness of his colors” (Beach 11) and the “balance of composition” (Beach 11). The artist is also interested in portraiture, the figures convincingly depict actual people (Beach 12). Most importantly, the artist is concerned with minute details. For example, in the Muhgal painting Lovers on a Terrace from ~1645, one notes the tiny pattern on the bolsters and pillows, the texture of the fabric, and the “way a translucent muslin affects the color of flesh or fabric underneath” (Beach 12). These tiny details are a staple of the kind of refined skill required for Mughal painting. By contrast, a Rajput painting is “built in blocks of color” (Beach 12), which give the work a more emotional quality that constrasts with the more visually realistic style found in Mughal works (Beach 12). The figures in Rajput paintings can be seen to have “rectangular heads and enormous eyes” (Beach 12), which are not derived from realistic depiction, but instead are derived from “careful manipulation of pre-existing formulas” (Beach 12). A love-scene from a Rajput painting is “dynamic and impassioned” (Beach 12), whereas a similar Mughal work is “perhaps the least passionate love-scene imaginable” (Beach 12).

            Mughal paintings were almost exclusively commissioned by Mughal emperors (Beach 11-13). Most of these emperors desired uniqueness in their paintings, which provided the artist an opportunity to express his own individuality (Beach 12-17). In contrast, traditional Hindu village painting styles gave no role to the individual (Beach 17). Because Rajput painting was influenced by both Mughal and village ideals, the individuality displayed by the Rajput artists depended both on the context in which they worked, and the persuasions of the patrons for which they worked (Beach 17).

            Raphel Pettrucci writes that a “very narrow conception, unhappily still predominant, has too long overshadowed the art of painting by insisting that imitation is essential to it” (Petrucci 76). Instead, Petrucci asserts that painting is not just a representation of forms, but also an abstract language, just as illusive, indistinct and powerful as poetry and music (Petrucci 76). Rajput painting, when considered with regard to this point of view, reveals a tradition of essential elements which are borrowed from “epic sources, wherein the philosophy of the world and of life, of nature and of sentiment, is expressed in whatever it possessed of the eternal” (Petrucci 76). In other words, the forms in Rajput paintings are often more than their surface appearance, and are, instead, symbols. The Rajput artists reflect just enough of the real world as to express themselves through suggestion, while retaining their “own austerer power” (Petrucci 76).   Despite often drawing subject matter from Hindu texts, of which many depict savage imagery, such as Asura burning alive in flames cast upon him by Durya, Rajput paintings exhibit a certain sentiment of tenderness and love (Petrucci 76).

            Rajput painting is “both essentially and formally religious” (Coomaraswamy 50), and interprets the experience of human life much like a spiritual drama (Coomaraswamy 50). There is a close relationship between Rajput paintings and vernacular Hindi poetry, and the two often go hand in hand (Coomaraswamy 50. In many cases, the corresponding inscription from the particular Hindi subject is written on either the back of the painting, or on the painting itself (Coomaraswamy 50). The paintings are rarely dated or signed (Coomaraswamy 50). Rajput paintings were sometimes painted directly onto walls as murals, though typically were produced in small-scale works, which were meant to be held in the hand, and were often wrapped in cotton and stored (Coomaraswamy 50).

            In terms of technique, the Rajput style of painting is related to the ancient and modern Indian ‘fresco’ (Coomaraswamy 50). To begin, the artist makes an initial sketch, typically in red, or transfers an already prepared design (Coomaraswamy 50). The sketch is then primed with a white primer (Coomaraswamy 50). After the re-drawing and correcting is finished, the painting is coloured, beginning with the background, then foreground elements like buildings, and last of all forms like human and animal figures (Coomaraswamy 50). Brush strokes are made by free-hand, with single, fluid strokes contouring figures, detailing backgrounds, and outlining features (Coomaraswamy 50). Mughal painting, on the other hand, could be more readily described as a more methodical art-form, almost “an art of stippling” (Coomaraswamy 50).

            A frequent subject of Rajput painters is a “set of illustrations to the thirty-six Ragas and Raginis” (Coomaraswamy 50). These Ragas and Raginis are also described by poems, forming a Ragmala, of which are often inscribed on the corresponding paintings themselves (Coomaraswamy 50). Each Raga and Ragini is associated with a very particular mood, such as day and night, seasons, and rain, amongst countless others (Coomaraswamy 52). Most of these moods are connected to love, in the context of traditional Hindu rhetoric or poetry. (Coomaraswamy 52). Much like the way the music from a raga, or the poetry from the Ragmala can express a mood, Rajput paintings provide yet another medium in which to experience these moods (Coomaraswamy 52).

            In the early fifteenth century Rajput paintings, subject matter was mainly based on book illustrations, such as the Bhagvat-Purana, Ramayan, Gita Govinda and Ragmala series (Agre 570). The Rajput painters “brought the gods down to the level of human beings, depicting through the illustration of the divine, the life of the aristocracy and the common man” (Agre 570). From the 17th century onward, the influence of the Mughal Court begins to show in Rajput painting, and the subject matter shifted (Agre 570). While the book illustrations continued, secular scenes like marriage, battle, hunting, dancing, music, and festivals were favoured (Agre 570). Much can be learned about the lives of Indians from 17th century Rajput paintings, particularly aristocratic lives, as these were the primary figures (Agre 571). Men wore pagri, qaba, jama, and takauchia were the coats that they wore (Agre 571). The lower garment consisted of pajamas, which are typically depicted as being striped (Agre 571). Men frequently wore ornaments such as necklaces, and karas on their wrist which were decorated with precious stones, and rings were worn on the fingers (Agre 571). Women wore ear-rings, finger rings, nose-rings, necklaces over the breast, bazuband on the elbows, and anklets over the ankles (Agre 571). Interestingly, these ornaments are “depicted as worn by all women whether princesses, attendants, musicians, singers or dancers (Agre 571).

            The paintings also depict social customs, such as marriage, worship, festivals, among others (Agre 571). The growth of smoking as a habit can also be seen (Agre 571). In terms of entertainment, the Rajput paintings from the 17th century portray a wide variety of entertainment, chiefly dance and music, though also present are gambling, hunting, chess, chupar and kite flying (Agre 571). Hunting, in particular, was favoured by the ruling class; aristocrats used pet hawks to aid in their hunts during the 18th century (Agre 571).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Agre, J. (1976) “Social Life Aa Relfected In The Rajput Painting During The Mughal Period”. Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 37, 569-575.

Coomaraswamy, A. K. (1918) “Rajput Painting”. Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin,16 (96), 49-62.

Beach, M. (1975) “The Context of Rajput Painting”. Ars Orientalis,10, 11-17.

 Petrucci, R. (1916) “Rajput Painting”. The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 29 (158), 74- 79.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Mughal Painting

Mughal Courts

Mewar Painting

Related Websites

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/east-asian-art/rajput-painting.htm

https://www.culturalindia.net/indian-art/paintings/rajput.html

Article written by: Cade Sisco (February 2020) who is solely responsible for its content.

Intoxication in Hinduism

The use of intoxicants in the Hindu tradition varies depending on the substance. Specific substances are mentioned in sacred writings, such as the alcohol in the Ayurveda and cannabis in the Atharva Veda (Frawley 1 and Shivaharidas 2). Highly regarded substances are used sacredly during rituals, as offerings to gods and goddesses. Furthermore, there are over one hundred Vedic hymns praising Soma, one of the most highly regarded intoxicants in the Hindu tradition. Certain substances are associated with particular deities and incorporated into precise myths. These important substances are understood widely in the Hindu tradition and considered very holy (Godlaski 1067). Other substances are recognized as harmful and individuals are advised to use caution when consuming them. There is no specific set of rules for Hindus to follow regarding intoxicating substances (Frawley 1). However, many Vedic scriptures discuss the use of intoxicants and can be referenced as a guideline. Based on the understanding of Dharma, individuals must recognize how intoxicants will affect them in relation to cosmic order. It is challenging to comprehend how mind-altering substances, can fit in with the natural laws behind the universe. The many ancient writings of the Hindus serve as a guideline when becoming involved with intoxicating substances, and should be referenced in order to obey a virtuous Hindu lifestyle.

The core beliefs and practices surrounding alcohol in the Hindu tradition are based on caste-related permissive uses. For example, alcohol restrictions were placed on the high-caste brahmins (Sharma 9), furthermore the Rg Veda states that ksatriyas (the warrior class) were allowed to use alcohol on occasion in coherence with their military culture. The lower castes such as the vaisyas and sudras had few restrictions on alcohol use, based on their social status. These lower classes do not have societal obligations to attend to therefore alcohol usage is permitted. The Brahmins (priestly class) refrain from alcohol because within the caste system they are of a closer ranking to the gods, which means that intoxicating substances are offered to deities instead of ingested. The Brahmin class must remain pure and mentally clear in order to worship the gods and have them remain unpolluted. Alcohol is an important aspect within religious events and festivals (Frawley 1), but the Brahmin class does not consume.

The Vedic scriptures can be referenced in order to understand when alcohol is appropriate to use in the Hindu tradition. Alcohol is an important aspect during religious ritual and becomes a traditional feature of social gatherings, however it can be sinful and dangerous when used incorrectly. Within the post-Vedic period (700 BCE-110 CE), strong alcoholic beverages were served to guests on certain occasions, such as marriage. Occasions like this are seen as appropriate times to take part in alcohol consumption, but following the guidelines of Vedic scripture it is only used in seldom (see Sharma 9). Furthermore, the use of alcohol is mentioned in two of the greatest Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, two great Hindu stories that are widely acknowledged, which provide reference to alcohol usage that the public can respect and incorporate into their personal lives. Within the Ramayana the royal individuals are drinking wine, and many people of Ayodhya are also consuming large amounts of alcohol (Sharma 10). Alcohol is mentioned frequently within the Mahabharta, the demise of the Yadavs (a warrior dynasty) was due to fighting while inebriated (Sharma 10). This epic also mentions that drinking alcohol can be sinful, and alludes to the demise of a warrior dynasty to describe its potential side effects. This piece of the epic is important to understand intoxication within the Hindu culture. A great warrior class failing due to inebriation is an important lesson to guide an individual to understanding how intoxicants can negatively affect the state of mind. Hinduism acknowledges that alcohol is a powerful affluence, and that its influence should not be taken casually (Frawley 1).

The Ayurveda literature also contains views on the use of alcohol. Within this medical section of the Hindu Dharma, alcohol is used as an important solvent for extracting herbs; it is used as an essential tool within this text (Frawley 1). The Ayurveda also mentions two important herbal wines, asavas and aristas, which are used for weak digestion and relaxants for stress. The Ayurveda recognizes that herbal wines can have health benefits, but only when taken in moderation. This text expands on the dangers associated with alcohol use. Stating that frequent consumption can cause both psychological and physical disease. The dangers of alcohol use become relevant when it comes to an individuals’ state of mind: not only can frequent use of alcohol damage the liver, contribute to blood toxicity and also damage the brain, but it is also important to recognize that for studying students and religious individuals, it can impair mental judgment (Frawley 1). Mental clarity is an essential component in achieving moksa, and by purposely impairing an individuals mind; they are further away from attaining this ultimate goal. This kind of intoxication is predominantly viewed as negative within the Hindu tradition because of the health risks and addiction associated with this particular substance.

The use of cannabis in the Hindu tradition is widely explored within the Atharva Veda in which “cannabis is named one of the five most sacred plants on Earth” (Ramadurai 1). Vedic and Hindu literature mention cannabis for its medicinal, cultural, and religious usages. Cannabis has been used for thousands of years in the worship of the god Siva (Godlaski 1067). It is orally administered through bhang in the form of pills, or a drink made of milk and spices. It is commonly consumed at celebrations such as weddings and festivals to honor Siva and dispel evil influences caused by demons, which focus on the suffering of mankind. At festivals like Shivratri, the night of Siva and Holi, the festival of colors, bhang plays an important role. The holiness of bhang reverts back to its virtue of clearing the head and stimulating the brain (Shivahardias 11). It is used in order to clear the human brain and bring individuals closer to the gods. Cannabis is believed to have a guardian spirit whose most important duty is to counteract the attempts of evil demons. Worshippers of Siva consume bhang on festival days, and ascetic holy men smoke the flower buds in devotion to him. These holy men (sadhus) follow Lord Siva and consume regular quantities of cannabis. Most often, they smoke buds of the flower in clay pipes, called chillums, which are used in rituals of meditation, worship and yogic practices (Godlaski 1069). The ashes of the buds are believed to have powerful medicinal properties.

These specific practices are codified in the Vedas, which describe an association between Siva and cannabis. It states that a drop of amrta (sacred nectar), fell out of the sky, landed on a mountain and sprouted a cannabis plant. Siva then brought the plant down for the benefit of mankind (Godlaski 1068). This story recounts how the use of cannabis is associated with the god Siva. The same story continues to describe how demons attempted to use the cannabis plant for their own evil usage; Siva prevented this and so cannabis has also been given the name, vijaya (victory).

Cannabis in the Vedas is referred to as a source of happiness, and given to human beings to assist us in feeling happiness and to revert feelings of distress and anxiety (Godlaski 1068). The Atharva Veda continues to mention the benefits of cannabis and how it is able to “release us from anxiety” (Atharva Veda 11.6.15). It is described as a protector, and is used to protect all animals and properties (Shivaharidas 2).  Cannabis is therefore sacred, significant and respected in the Hindu tradition and is highly beneficial to Hindu society as both a medicine, and religious property.

In Vedic literature, the use of Soma can be identified as a plant, a drink and a god (deva). It is highly glorified within the Vedas, most importantly within the ninth mandala of the Rg Veda (McGeough 1). This mandala compares Soma to the sun, fire and immortality. Soma is directly correlated with the Rg Veda, because it has over 100 hymns dedicated to the plant, and plays a crucial role in understanding its effects. Soma is also mentioned within the Satapatha Brahmana, “Soma is a God, since Soma (the moon) is in the sky” and “now Soma is a god, for Soma was in the heaven” (Shivaharidas 1). The various descriptions and metaphors for Soma provide emphasis to the importance of this Vedic god within the Hindu tradition. It is physically referred to as a god, and put on the same pedestal as the heavens. It is glorified within sacred writings, and its power is clearly influential.

Similar to cannabis, it is described within the Rg Veda as the healer of disease, which renounces feelings of anxiety and stress and named the king of plants (McGeough 1). Vedic descriptions of Soma vary: it has been speculated to be cannabis, the ephedra plant, wine or a mushroom. However, it is unlikely that Soma is a type of alcohol since alcohol has other names within the Vedas and alcoholic intoxication is not seen as a positive influence within Vedic literature. It is most likely that Soma is a type of hallucinogenic mushroom, because of its appearance and intoxicating effects, however this theory cannot be proven with certainty (McGeough 1).

There are no other types of intoxicants in the Hindu tradition that produce the same effect as Soma. Primarily, Brahmin priests used Soma to be connected with the gods during Vedic rituals. Soma clearly plays a very significant role within rituals, and the Hindu tradition as a whole. Vedic deities also consume large amounts of Soma, such as Agni (god of fire) and Indra (lord of the thunderbolt) (Rg Veda 108. 1-13). It is the favorite drink of these gods, and is supplied to mortal human beings so they may find happiness. Soma is able to provide humans with mystical experiences and contributes to the connection between human and deities within the Hindu tradition.

The connection between the use of cannabis and the use of Soma within the Hindu tradition is evident. Hindu history even suggests that these two intoxicants might be the same substance (Shivahardias 1). Both substances are used for relaxation, mental clarity and used within religious rituals. These two substances are highly regarded within society, and mentioned frequently within ancient writings. Users of these intoxicants practice usage frequently, and it is normalized within their society. On the contrary, the use of alcohol is recognized as a more harmful intoxicant and its users are advised to proceed with caution when consuming. The Hindu tradition recognizes the possible harmful consequences that occur with intoxicants (predominantly the use of alcohol), such as the harmful effects of over consumption. Particularly within the Ayurveda, these harmful consequences are explored and explained.

In order to follow a Dharmic lifestyle and understand the concepts of Karma, one should not participate in over consumption of any intoxicant due to their hallucinogenic and mind-altering properties. Referring back to the ancient Hindu texts and epics can guide the individual toward understanding when and where intoxication is appropriate and how to use mind-altering substances appropriately. These writings not only serve as a guideline when it comes to intoxication in Hinduism, but also how to live a virtuous Hindu lifestyle. The negative consequences associated particularly with alcohol usage within Hinduism should be understood and acknowledged before individuals decide to partake in consuming intoxicants.

 

REFRENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Alfred, J. Andrea (2011) World History Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Frawley, David (2014) “A Hindu view on the use of alcohol.” The Hindu Perspective. Hindu Voice UK. Accessed October 8, 2018. https://hinduperspective.com/2014/03/22/a-hindu-view-on-the-use-of-alcohol-david-frawley/

 Godlaski, Theodore M (2012) “Shiva, Lord of Bhang, Substance Use & Misuse.” Substance Use & Misuse. Vol. 47, Issue 10. P1067-1072. DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2012.684308

Ramadurai, Charukesi (2017) “The intoxicating drug of an Indian god.” BBC Travel. BBC. Accessed November 27th, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20170307-the-intoxicating-drug-of-an-indian-god

Shivaharidas (2012) “Vedic use of Cannabis “ Scribd, BY-NC. P1-12.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (1998) “Soma” Encyclopaedia Britannica: Britannica Academic. Encyclopaedia Britannica inc.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Devi

Rayamana

Mahabharta

Rg Veda

Vija

Asavas

Arishtas

Karma

Dharma

Agni

Indra

Ayurveda

Siva

Cannabis

Soma

Holi

Shirvrati

Yadavs

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://mahavidya.ca/2008/04/14/soma-mysterious-vedic-plant-and-deity/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soma_(deity)

https://www.ancient.eu/Soma/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-teenage-mind/201106/history-cannabis-in-india

https://www.quora.com/What-is-marijuana-used-for-in-Hinduism

https://www.weedweekly.com/where-does-hinduism-stand-on-marijuana/

https://www.boldsky.com/yoga-spirituality/faith-mysticism/2014/does-hinduism-prohibit-drinking-alcohol/articlecontent-pf66224-045962.html

https://www.religiousforums.com/threads/hinduism-and-alcohol.148753/

https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/secret-substance-soma-bringing-human-beings-closer-gods-005943

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/hmvp/hmvp12.htm

Article written by: Leah Paul (November 2018) who is solely responsible for its content.

Hinduism in Bollywood

Bollywood came about in the very early 20th century with Dhundiraj Govind Phalke being credited with being the “Father of Indian Cinema” (Dimitrova 2016: 2). The name “Bollywood” came from a combination of Bombay and Hollywood, which demonstrates the enormous size of Bollywood in comparison to Hollywood (Mazur 2011: 75). The sources of Bollywood film can be found in traditional Indian Dance, Sanskrit drama, and especially from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Early on in its history, the films were made and seen by those in the elite classes and were rarely seen by ordinary people. Indian cinema has been seen as inferior to the west and has to censor to ‘protect’ the lower classes because it was originally reserved for the upper class (Dwyer 2006: 14). Though, the film industry has not changed greatly, there are some distinctions between old and new Bollywood film styles. Classical Bollywood film, [made in the late 20th century] was used to heighten emotional response and to appeal to a mass audience rather than just a narrow group (Dimitrova 2016: 4). Just like Hinduism, Bollywood films do not just employ storytelling, but also song and dance. Since Bollywood film has grown in popularity, the origins of the Bollywood industry still stay strong throughout.

Bollywood film in the 20th century was a useful tool in terms of creating a national and cultural identity. The films wanted to depict the immoral and materialist nature of Western culture and how India is a superior culture compared to them. Some films in this period showed the changing demographic in India. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s the presence of a Christian priest was common in Hindi film and those who sought shelter would often do so in Christian churches (Lal 2006). However, this was not widely represented in mainstream cinema. They also used the concept of ‘Orientalism’ in both the 20th and 21st centuries to push the stereotypes and the idealization of India itself. This concept gives them a uniqueness and gives them the ability to differentiate themselves from Western media. However, in 21st century Bollywood, the films are constantly being scrutinized for their views on contemporary politics, corruption, public perception of the state and its agencies, and the position of women in Indian society (Lal 2006). However, these films will sometime critique the treatment of women and other social issues. Furthermore, regarding the new Bollywood films some accuse the film- markers of being anti-Hindu or having Hinduphobia. This is where films will portray those who practice the religion as closeminded people, conservative, or will perceive the religion in a negative way. Though the roots of these movies will forever be from Hinduism.

Most, if not all Bollywood movies can be connected back to the two epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It even has its own genre in Bollywood, often being referred to as the mythological genre. These epics guide many Hindus on how to lead a moral life by doing one’s duties, whether that be for family or society (Mazur 2011: 219). First, the Ramayana is a popular story that many know around the world. The one thing that pushed the popularity of this story was that it became a television series and the various movies were made based on the epic. For example, the movie Awaara (1951) parallels the events in the Ramayana, where Sita is kidnapped by an evil demon Ravana. Sita is found but her chastity is questioned since she was kidnapped by another man. In order to prove herself, she went through a fire ordeal, but even after she does so, Rama abandoned Sita because his kingdom was not fond of her.  In mainstream Bollywood film, this promotes a conservative model for women because she shows bhakti [devotion, service, and surrender] to Rama who is her husband (Dimitrova 2010: 72). This can be easily seen within social life of Hindus, as wives are supposed to practice loyalty and obedience with their husbands. Even Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana TV series has contributed to the vision of the perfect Pativrata using the example of the perfect dharmic wife like Sita or Draupadi and distorts Tulsidas’s version of Sita (Dimitrova 2010: 72).

The Mahabharata is considered to be the foundation of Hinduism in part because the Bhagavad Gita is derived from the text. The story is about the Pandavas rivalry with their cousins the Kauravas which ends in a fierce battle. The Pandavas demonstrate a perfect dharmic nature and Draupadi, who is wife to all five of the brothers, also demonstrates Pativrata too. The Maharashtra Film Company made the Sairandhri (1920) based on a story from the Mahabharata which shows depictions of Indian servitude (Dwyer 2006: 20). Furthermore, in the 1980s there was a TV show that B.R. Chopra made called the Mahabharata. During the time of its release the restrictions on religion in media were relaxed. This show was less controversial because it was more of a historical epic and there were not political connections. Another film that was a retelling of the Mahabharata was Shayam Benegal’s Kalyug (1980). This story instead of being set in ancient times, had a more modern tone to it. Two industrial families named the Puranchands and Khuchands go into a bitter feud similar to that of the Pandavas and the Kauravas (Lal 2006). Though, there are not as many renditions of the Mahabharata compared to the Ramayana its popularity shows that it is still is imbedded in the roots of Hindu culture and film.

An important film that illustrates the power of these mythological stories is Jai Santoshi Maa (1975). The goddess Santoshi Maa is a major goddess in the Hindu pantheon and is generally worshipped by women in northern India (Dwyer 2006: 46). The goddess was originally was local to the northern Indian, the movie was derived from the vratkathas, a story about a fast to gain the favour of a god. The movie was popular with working women and because of that, the movie turned into a household name. This movie shows the origins of the goddess and how she is a manifestation of sakti. It also shows Satyavati’s devotion leads her to economic and martial success by worshipping the goddess of satisfaction (Mazur 2011: 78). Satyavati is the mother of Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata. “The film deliberately sets up an overt contrast between ‘High Hinduism’ and folk Hinduism:  Laksmi, Parvati, and Sarasati are well-fed and lead opulent lives, but Santoshi Ma is content with offerings ofgur-chana (cane sugar & chickpeas), food consumed by the poor” (Lal 2006). To many women who are in the lower classes, it gives them hope that a goddess can be an ordinary woman similar to how many men are considered gods (i.e. Sri Caitanya). The film has been considered a devotional and a historical film unlike the films based on the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The film often promoted the worship of the goddess by not only being shown during festival times but also when the DVD was released there incense, a small candle, an image of the goddess, and a pamphlet explaining the vow (Mazur 2011: 78). Jai Santoshi Maa (1975) quickly gained a cult status similar to the Ramayana TV series by Sagar. This movie demonstrates that Hindi film is not strictly patriarchal and how easily the worship of a new god/ goddess can come about through Bollywood film.

Hinduism is not just strictly portrayed in Bollywood films, it is also shown in Hollywood films. Comparing how the religion is interpreted in Hollywood versus Bollywood, demonstrates how others in the world view the religion. It is important to note that Hinduism in non- Indian, western film often portray orientalism and use the sense of the “Other” in positive and negative ways (Mazur 2011: 214). In Hollywood movies, holy men bring wisdom to those in need and are often portrayed as being Gurus. Though there are never any mentions of the teachings or the great philosophies of these teachers. One of the critiques that Hinduism based movies receive is that they often take a historical approach rather than a mythical one. This is often seen with movies that are based around the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Nevertheless, there are always more negatives than positives that westerners see in these films. For example, the philosophies are perceived as full of wisdom and can be useful to westerners who see rituals are seen as foreign and weird (Mazur 2011: 215). This promotes the idea of the ‘Other’ as well as orientalism. These western movies also stereotype the religion similar to how some of the Bollywood movies stereotype western cultures in theirs. For example, in the movie Lagan (2001) the Indian villagers are portrayed as morally superior and the British are shown are superficial and cruel (Dimitrova 2016: 9). In this film, a British women named Elizabeth and an Indian women named Gauri. Elizabeth develops a love for India, immersing herself in the religion which is shown through Indian music and dance. However, in the end the boy still chooses Gauri because of the desirability of the Indian “self” (Dimitrova 2016: 10). This film is based on the mythology of Krsna and his favorite gopi and the devotional Mira who believes she is wed to Krsna, which is a common theme among Bollywood films.

Hinduism is often imbedded within Bollywood movies. These movies promote a nationalism that ties in religion and devotion to doing your duties. There are two main genres in Bollywood, which are devotional and mythological, which contribute to the idea that one should practice Hinduism and should stay devoted to it. These are genres considered to be the foundations for Bollywood cinema. The mythological genre sets a stage for what the devotion should look like, as well as shows deities to prove that they too follow dharmic ways. The devotional genre guides you through using the narratives of saints from the beginning of life to the end. Though both genres still adhere to the historical aspects of the film.

 

References and Further Readings

Dimitrova, Diana (2016) “Hinduism and Its Others in Bollywood Film of the 2000s” Journal of Religion and Film 20: 1-20.

Dimitrova, Diana (2010) “Religion and Gender in Bollywood Film.” In Religion in Literature and Film in South Asia edited by Diana Dimitrova, 69-81. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dwyer, Rachel (2006) Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema. New York: Routledge.

Lal, Vinay (2006) “Hinduism in Bollywood: A few notes.” University of Los Angeles. Accessed October 3, 2018. http://southasia.ucla.edu/culture/cinema/history-and-aesthetics/hinduism-and-bollywood/.

Mazur, Eric Michael (2011) Encyclopedia of Religion and Film. Denver: Greenwood.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Mahabharata

Ramayana

Sita

Draupadi

Dhundiraj Govind Phalke

Pativrata

Bhakti

Vratkathas

Rama

Kauravas

Pandavas

Bhagavad Gita

 

Noteworthy Websites

http://abith.weebly.com/hinduism-and-bollywood.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Hindu_sentiment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bollywood

This article was written by:  Kailea Long (Fall 2018) who is solely responsible for its content.

Hinduism in Tamil Cinema

Tamil cinema is a difficult term to firmly define, and is a part of the much wider used term of ‘Indian Cinema’. A brief history of the development of Tamil cinema and of the politics surrounding it is helpful in understanding how and why Tamil cinema portrays Hinduism the way it does.

There was uncertainty among critics over what defined a film as Tamil early on in Tamil cinema’s development, for there was no firm or sole ‘Tamil’ element within Tamil cinema to define it (Hughes 22). While scholars agree upon the film Kalidas as being the first Tamil film, not everyone else agreed with this idea (Hughes 10). One film critic, for example, saw the film Valli as being the first Tamil film instead of Kalidas (Hughes 12). As the film critic differs in opinion compared to scholars, Hughes argues that this suggests that other ways of depicting the development of Tamil films do exist and that they would have been built upon differing criteria over the definition of ‘Tamil film’ (Hughes 12).

Tamil films at this time were not strictly to do with Tamil culture, language, or the location of the production. For example, the film Kalidas was filmed in Bombay like most Tamil films were between 1931 and 1934 (Rajadhyaksha 254). Part of the difficulty for critics with giving Tamil Cinema a firm definition was based upon the fact that many of these so called Tamil films, like Kalidas, had non-Tamil elements within them. The definition of a Tamil film was not solely based upon the film being shot in Tamil for it was usual for Tamil dramatists, actors, and musicians to be contracted by studios in Bombay and Calcutta and for them to be moved from the south (Hughes 9). Language was not always a firm definition for Tamil films either, as in Kalidas, most of it is in Tamil but the male lead speaks in Telugu (Rajadhyaksha 254).

Tamil films were also not simply to do with those who lived within Tamil Nadu as the production of these films at this time involved people throughout India and even people from abroad (Hughes 9). Production of films was not merely an independent affair as productions within the main Indian languages shared many things such as costumes, movie sets, stories, music, and even the actors with one another (Hughes 10).

Things began to change when Tamil films began to be produced mostly in the south, instead of places like Bombay (Mumbai), but this did not stop critics from questioning what was Tamil about Tamil Cinema (Hughes 16-17). Despite being locally based within their productions, Tamil films were still involved with a lot of different people from around India (Hughes 17). The producers and studios of Tamil cinema were also more interested in hiring people for their work experience over hiring those who spoke fluent Tamil (Hughes 17).

Another shift occurred within Tamil Cinema when the defining of ‘Tamil films’ became even more complex with the politics of the Dravidian movement (Hughes 18). Politics became more involved in these films as people, such as the DMK, began to use films as a means of pursuing their political desires. These political desires included the Tamil nationalists’ who argued that the Tamil culture, the Tamil people, and the Tamil language were the last bit of the original Dravidian culture that had once encompassed India (Younger 100). To do this meant that the nationalists had to cast out many aspects of Hinduism: Sanskrit and Hindi languages, the caste system, and even Hinduism itself as elements of an ‘alien’ ideology (Younger 100).

When paraphrasing Sumathy Ramaswamy, Ravi points out that the Tamil language is very important to the Tamil people as the language itself is now the ‘critical centre’ of the Tamil culture (Ravi 48). The Pure Tamil Movement wanted to get rid of the Sanskrit elements within the Tamil language (Hughes 19). They wanted to do this because they viewed Sanskrit as a language that had been brought by the northern Brahmin migrants and had been forced upon them (Hughes 19). The Tamil language was a means of going against the ‘alien’ ideology of Hinduism by using it instead of the Sanskrit and Hindi languages.  This common feeling of being in opposition to Hindi drew together many different types of people within the Tamil community when Hindi was being established as the national language of India (Ravi 48). Scholars also talk about a ‘cultural renaissance’ during the Anti-Hindi Agitation of 1965 which relates to this ‘opposition of Hindi’ for it contained anti-Brahminism ideas, the pushing away of traditional Hinduism as something from the north, and a growing distrust of anything northern (Forrester 22).

Politics are firmly connected and intertwined within Tamil cinema’s history for many politicians and their politics influenced what Tamil cinema produced. For example, C.N. Annadurai had a film called Velaikkari which scholars say had “a strong social theme and message” (Jesudoss 22) and he was also the founder of the DMK, the Dravidian political party, which opposed the Brahmin hegemonic notions of caste and religion (Jesudoss 22). Themes within Tamil cinema were largely influenced by the politics of groups such as the DMK and, therefore, these politics affected how different aspects of Hinduism were portrayed within Tamil film. Scholars often touch upon how Tamil cinema subverts popular Hinduism notions, such as the Brahmins being the elite, and focus a lot upon the ‘anti-Brahmin’ ideas that appear throughout many films.

E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker’s Self-Respect movement dominated Tamil films at this time and “brought anti-northern [and] anti-Brahmin themes” (Hardgrave 290). The hegemonic ideas (i.e. the caste system) of Brahmins being at the top of the system and the most powerful are linked tightly to many notions and ideas within Hinduism. These ideas are teased and questioned within Tamil film. For example, one scholar expresses how the Brahmin character, in a film with an urban setting, is often a character who is shown to be a self-righteous and principled individual who is trying to maintain traditional caste values (Ravi 49). When discussing how Nala Damayanti, a Tamil comedy film, differs from the usual conventions of Tamil cinema, Ravi explains that it seems to go against a usual Tamil cinema convention for it seems to have hero who is Brahmin (Ravi 52). Brahmins are rarely heroes in Tamil cinema (Ravi 49). However, he also notes that this character’s Brahmin-ness is condensed down into his dialect while it is from his actions that Ramji, the character, becomes associated with Tamizhan (Ravi 52). A Tamizhan is a “member of ethnic community defined by Tamil as his language and whose origin is in the southern sub-continent” (Ravi 52).

These sorts of films have not always been readily accepted by everyone. The film Parasakathi was banned, for example, for a time as it questioned the status quo. It was a film that talked about social problems as well as religious superstitions, and it had a big effect on the middle class people because it had Tamil sentiments and ideals (Jesudoss 23). When the screenwriter was interviewed, he stated that he had wanted to “introduce the ideas and policies of social reform and justice in the films [(Parasakathi and Velaikari)] and bring up the status of the Tamil language as they were called for in DMK policies” (Hardgrave 292). DMK policies called for the Tamil language to be seen highly and in opposition to Hindi.

The director of Parasakthi was also unsurprised that it caused a reaction for he stated in an interview that it was intended to and that the reaction was unsurprising for they “were challenging the social law itself” (Hardgrave 292). The director of Parasakathi used his films as a means of making political statements about religion as he stated that the DMK are not against ‘the temple’ but are against the people, who he called evil-minded’, who use it (Hardgrave 292). He also went on to explain that the DMK are monolithic, which goes against elements of Hinduism, and that they do not agree with the bribing of god with puja (Hardgrave 292). Puja is a term to describe a way of worship through ritual in Hinduism (Rodrigues 343). The film Velaikari also attacked religious ideas such as puja, which was used within the film and showed ‘issues’ within religion, and is considered to be a ‘revolutionary film’ (Hardgrave 291-292).

After the success of films like Velaikari and Parasakthi, Tamil cinema created a series of films with social themes (Jesudoss 23). They also used stories that related to Tamil ideas of things such as valor and love as well as their affection for their own language (Jesudoss 22-23). As Jesudoss explains when paraphrasing Baskaran, scholars consider these films and Tamil cinema to have produced a ‘major revolution’ and he explains that this was unsettling to those in the higher castes (Jesudoss 23)

Tamil cinema is credited by scholars to have brought about social changes (Jesudoss 23). It was used to strengthen some social and religious ideas but also questioned and tested traditions and customs (Jesudoss 23). Tamil Cinema formed into a means of culturally expressing the Tamil culture/people (Jesudoss 23). Today, Tamil films are still engaging with this cultural expression idea (Jeusdoss 23): reinforcing Tamil identity, Tamil language, anti-Brahminism, and questioning/challenging of different aspects Hinduism.

 

REFERENCES AND FUTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Rajadhyaksha, A. and P. Willemen (1999) Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Forrester, Duncan B. (1966) “The Madras Anti-Hindi Agitation, 1965: Political Protest and its Effects on Language Policy in India.” Pacific Affairs Vol. 39, No. 1/2: p. 19-36.

Hardgrave Jr, Robert L. (1973) “Politics and the Film in Tamilnadu: The Stars and the DMK.”  Asian Survey Vol. 13, No. 3: p. 288-305.

(2012) “What is Tamil about Tamil Cinema?” In South Asian Cinemas: Widening the Lens. Sara Dickey and Rajinder Dudrah (eds.). New York: Routledge. pp. 8-24.  Special edition of  South Asian Popular Culture Vol. 8 No. 3.

Jesudoss, Perianayagam (2009) “Tamil Cinema.” Communication Research Trends Vol. 28, No. 4: p. 4-27.

Ravi, Srilata (2008) “Tamil Identity and the Diasporic Desire in a Kollywood Comedy: Nala Damayanti (2003).” South Asian Popular Culture Vol 6, No. 1: p. 45-56.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism: The ebook: An Online Introduction. Online: Journal of  Buddhist Ethics Online Books.

(2008) Tamil Cinema: The Cultural Politics of India’s Other Film Industry. Selvaraj Velayutham (ed.). New York: Routledge

Younger, Prakash (2010) S. Velayutham, ed. “Tamil Cinema: The Cultural Politics of Indian’s Other Film Industry.” Canadian Journal of Film Studies Vol. 19, No. 1: p.99-102.

Related Research Topics

Kollywood

Kollywood vs. Bollywood

DMK

Tamil Identity

Tamil language

Politics within Indian films

Self-Respect Movement

Dravidian Movement

Anti-Hindi Agitation

Brahmin

Sanskrit

 

Related Websites

http://www.filmstudies.ca/journal/cjfs/archives/authors/younger_prakash

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/fan-clubs-and-films/article658948.ece

http://www.project-india.com/tag/dmk/

http://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/tamil-films-2014-our-top-20/article6730718.ece

http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-origin-of-words-Bollywood-Hollywood-Tollywood-Kollywood-etc

 

Article written by: Holly Travis (2015) who is solely responsible for its content

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The Vastu Tradition in Hinduism

The vastu tradition is said to be the ancient science of designing and constructing buildings and houses with a corresponding plot of land. The root word vas in vastu means to dwell, live, stay, and reside (Gautum 17) (Kramrisch 82). The vastu-shastra is the manual used for the architecture on how sacred or domestic building must be constructed. The vastu-purusa-mandala is a metaphorical expression of the plan of the Universe and depicts the link between people, buildings and nature it is used to position a building on potential plots of land (Patra 2006:215-216). This mandala is so universal that it can be applied to an altar, a temple, a house, and a city.  Hindu temples are meant to bring humans and gods together.

The vastu shastra is found originating in the Vedas the most ancient of sacred Indian text, tracing back to at least 3,000 B.C.E., if not earlier. The knowledge of constructing and designing a building is found specifically in the Sthapatya Veda, which is a sub heading in the Artharva Veda which is the fourth Veda. Principles of vastu-shastra can be found in several other ancient texts such as Kasyapa Silpa Sastra, Brhat Samhita, Visvakarma Vastu Sastra, Samarangana Sutradhara, Visnu Dharmodhare, Purana Manjari, Mayamata, Aparajitaprccha, Silparatna Vastu Vidya (Patra 2006:215). Hindu literature also cites that the knowledge of sacred architectural construction of buildings was present in the oral traditions since before the Vedic Period. According to Indian experts the vastu is possibly the oldest sacred architectural construction in the world up to date (Osborn 85-86). The oldest master known for vastu is Maya Danava, acknowledged as the founder of this ancient sacred Indian architectural tradition (Osborn 87). It is said that “man can improve his conditions by properly designing and understanding the location, direction, and disposition of a building that have a direct bearing on a human being” (Patra 2014:44). Based on the experience of several generations it has proved that the building and arrangement of villages and capitals in ancient India gave health and peacefulness. The principles regarding the construction of buildings that are in the vastu-shastra are used to please the vastu-purusa; they are explained by the mandala vastu-purusa-shastra. 

There are five basic principles of the sacred science of sacred architecture, the first of which is the doctrine of orientation (diknirnaya), which related to the cardinal directions: north, east, south, west. Second is site planning which uses the vastu-purusa-mandala and is the examination of the soil through categories such as taste, color, etc. Third is the proportionate measurement of the building (mana, hastalakshana), which is divided into six sections: measurement of height, breadth, width or circumference, measurement along plumb lines, thickness, and measurement of inter-space. Fourth there are the six canons of Vedic architecture (ayadi, sadvarga), base (aadhistaana), column (paada or stambha), entablature (prastaara), ear or wings (karna), roof (shikara) and dome (stupi). Fifth is the aesthetics of the building (patakadi, sadschandas) which deals with the nature of beauty such as principles of texture, color, flow, the interaction of sunlight and shadows, these are some principles of aesthetics (Patra 2014:44). The most important requirement in the manual is that the site of a new building must be placed where the gods are at play (King 69). If the temple is unable to be built by a tirtha (a sacred ford or a crossing place that must be by sacred water) then another suitable site should be found. This can be a riverbank, a river junction, a lake, or a seashore. It can even be mountains, hilltops, or forests/gardens. It can also be placed in populated areas like towns, villages, and cities (King 69 and Osborn 87). Water was said to be a fundamental part of the gods’ play, therefore a sacred temple must be near water but if no water was present then man-made a water source. Directions also hold a particular significance (north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, and northwest) they help to clarify the principles of the vastu-shastra.

Once the land has been chosen with appropriate knowledge the ground is then prepared properly using the geometrical design known as vastu-purusa-mandala. Then before the mandala is placed a Priest must perform a number of mantras a sacred utterance that urges all living creatures in the plot to leave so that the new land for the building will not kill any living things (King 69). The soil in the desired area of land must undergo some tests to show whether it is suitable or not. One test that occurs is a pit is dug in the ground and then is filled with water, and the soils strength is then judged by how much water is remaining when the next day arrives. Of course with this in mind before these tests can be done the soil must be examined in the following categories: smell, taste (whether it is sweet, pungent, bitter, astringent), color (white for brahmanas, red for kshatriyas, yellow for vaisyas, black for sudras, the color of the soil and the caste correspond with each other), sound, shape or consistency. After all that is done and if the soil is suitable, then the fertility of the soil must also be tested by plowing the ground and planting seed and recording the growth at 3, 5, and 7 nights. Then according to the success of growth, it is decided whether the soil is fertile and helps decide if this is a good place to build using the mandala (Kramrisch 13-14).

It does not matter whether the building is going to be a house, office, or a school the knowledge from the vastu-shastra must be taken into consideration in order for the execution to be successful. The walls that strengthen the temple are known as prakaras and they may vary in size and number in regards to the size of the temple. When building larger temples like the one in Srirangam they are occasionally surrounded by seven concrete walls that represent the seven layers of matter: earth, water, fire, air, either, mind, and intelligence.

 

The geometry and measurements of the vastu (blueprint) planned site is a very complex science. The shape must be a square that is a fundamental form of Indian architecture; its full name is vastu-purusa-mandala [the sacred diagram by which a temple is configured (Rodrigues 2006:568)] consisting of three parts vastu, purusa, and mandala. Purusa is a universal essence, a cosmic man representing pure energy, soul, and consciousness whose sacrifice by the gods was said to be the creation of all life. Purusa is the reason that buildings must be created using a mandala of him, which means a diagram relating to orientation. A mandala can also be referred to as a yantra (a cosmological diagram). The vastu-purusa-mandala adopts the shape of the land it is set on so it can fit suitably wherever it is placed. The mandala therefore accepts transformation into a triangle, hexagon, octagon, and circle if the area is consistent and it will maintain its symbolism. Even though the ideal shape is a square, its acceptance of transformation in shape shows the inherent flexibility of the vastu-purusa-mandala (Kramrisch 21 and Patra 2014:47). When configuring a temple they use this mandala of purusa to enable them to place the proper things in the proper directions and proper places (i.e. north, west, etc.) such as where the worship places or bedrooms must be and so forth. If the rooms in these buildings are appropriately placed this will keep the building healthy and keep the people in it happy (Patra 2014:47).

Another thing that the vastu-shastra states is that the layout for residences be placed based on caste; the brahmins (priestly class) are placed in the north, the kshatriyas (the warrior class) in the east, the vaishyas (the merchant class) in the south, and the sudras (the lower class) in the west.  When the land is purified and sanctified the vastu-purusa-mandala is drawn on the site with all the subdivisions helping to indicate the form of the building. The mandala is divided into 64 (8×8) squares and is meant for construction of shrines and for worship by brahmins, or 81 (9×9) squares and is meant for the construction of other buildings and for worship of kshastriyas (kings). These squares (nakshatras) are said to be the seats of 45 divinities that all surround a central open space that is ruled by Brahma (Chakrabarti 6-7 and Kramrisch 46). The square is occupied by the vastu-purusa his very shape of his body. His body with its parts, limbs, and apertures is interpreted as having the same boundaries or extent in space, time, or meaning and is therefore one with the 81 squares of the plan. The mandala is filled with magical effectiveness and meanwhile the body of man is the place of insight by the practice of the discipline of yoga (Kramrisch 49). The vastu-purusa-mandala is the vastu-purusa, his body is together with the presence and actions of the divinities located in the mandala, which is their yantra, the center is the brahmasthana and designates the center point of a building (it is a giant skylight) and its superstructure is the temple (Kramrisch 63).

The brahmasthana is the principle location in the temple because this is where the seat of the godhead will eventually be placed. A ritual is performed at this space in the vastu-purusa-mandala called garbhadhana, which invites the soul of the temple to enter the radius of the building. In this ritual a brahmin and a priest place a gold box in the earth during the ceremony of the first ground breaking. The interior of this box is an exact replica of the mandala squares and each square is filled with dirt. The priest then places the correct mantra in writing to call on the presence of the matching deity. When the base is complete the external features of the temple are brought to life through meticulously sculpted figures and paintings, these arts are generally conveyed as the forms of the divine entities (Osborn 90-91).     

It is said that the vastu-shastra is a very powerful ongoing tradition in India today and is in no threat of becoming extinct. The post secondary schools in India have classes to teach students about the variation of skills and techniques required in the science of sacred architecture. In these classes the literature is all written in Sanskrit, therefore in order for the students to learn the correct knowledge they must know how to read Sanskrit. They are taught everything required for vastu-shastra such as geometry, drafting, stone sculpture, bronze casting, woodcarving, painting, and so much more. When the students gain the correct knowledge and skills to be an architect in India they then graduate with a degree and then receive the title sthapati [(temple architect and builder) this title is named after Sri. M. Vaidyantha Sthapati a master architect, he was the designer and architect of some very popular temples and other Hindu buildings]. India has the most examples of sacred architecture that exist compared to all other countries in the world combined (Osborn 87). One of the more important requirements for vastu-shastra that is used today is the orientation of where parts of the buildings needs to be situated based on the points on the vastu-purusa-mandala. Hindu temples back in the nineteenth century were located at the heart of the city.  With that in mind today if one desires to go to a temple the most important temples are now all found in the suburbs, but they still have the same purpose, to bring human beings and gods closer together.

 

References and Further Recommended Reading

Boner, Alice (1966) Slipa Prakasa Medieval Orissan Sanskrit Text on Temple Architecture. Leiden: Brill Archive.

Chakrabarti, Vibhuti (2013) Indian Architectural Theory and Practice: Contemporary Uses of Vastu Vidya. New York: Routledge.

Gautum, Jagdish (2006) Latest Vastu Shastra (Some Secrets). New Delhi: Abhinav Publications.

King, Anthony D. (ed.) (2003) Building and Society. New York: Routledge.

Kramrisch, Stella (1976) The Hindu Temple, Vol 1. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Meister, Michael (1976) Mandala and Practice in Nagagra Architecture in North India.” Artibus Asiae, Vol.99, No.2: p.204-219.

Meister, Michael (1983) Geometry and Measure in Indian Temple Plans: Rectangular Temples. Artibus Asiae. Vol.44, No.4: p.266-296.

Michell, George (1977) The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to its Meanings and Forms. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Osborn, David (2010) Science of the Sacred. Raleigh: Lulu Press Inc.

Patra, Reena (2006) Asian Philosophy: A Comparative Study on Vaastu Shastra and Heidegger’s Building, Dwelling and Thinking. New York: Routledge, Vol.16, No.3: p.199-218.

Patra, Reena (2014) Town Planning in Ancient India: In Moral Perspective. Chandigarh: The International Journal of Humanities and Social Studies, Vol.2,  No.6: p.44-51.

Rodrigues, Hillary P. (2006) Introducing Hinduism-The eBook. Pennsylvania: Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, LTD.

Rodrigues, Hillary P. (ed.) (2011) Studying Hinduism in Practice. New York: Routledge.

Trivedi, Kirti (1989) Hindu Temples: Models of a Fractal Universe. Bombay: Springer-Verlag.

Vasudev, Gayatri D. (Editor) (1998) Vastu, Astrology, and Architecture: Papers Presented at the First All India Symposium on Vastu, Bangalore. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Mandala

Vedic Period

Vedas

Tirtha

Caste System

Brahmanas

Kshatriyas

Vaisyas

Sudras

Vedic Gods (divinities)

Purusa Legend

Brahmasthana

Yantra

Sthapati

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://architectureideas.info/2008/10/vastu-purusha-mandala/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vastu_shastra

http://www.vastushastraguru.com/vastu-purusha-mandala/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V._Ganapati_Sthapati

http://www.vaastu-shastra.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yantra

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandala

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_temple

 

Article written by: Brandon Simon (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

Kanchipuram (City of a Thousand Temples)

The city of Kanchipuram is located in the state of Tamil Nadu on the banks of the Vegavathi River, thirty-one miles from the city of Madras (Schellinger 435). It is known as Siva Visnu Kanchi, or simply as Kanchi (Schellinger 435). In the Hindu culture, there are seven cities that are held as sacred, Kanchipuram being one of them. Although the city has earned the name “The City of a Thousand Temples,” it does not actually have a thousand temples located within the city. The city does however have a sizeable amount of religious sites and monuments that are used for worship. Centuries of Indian history can be seen when one travels to this holy city. Kanchipuram was established by the Pallava Dynasty and was named the capital of their empire (Schellinger 435).  After the reign of the Pallava Dynasty the history of this city is very vague. It was controlled by many other dynasties none of which lasted any substantial amount of years.

During the reign of Asoka (who was an adamant supporter of Buddhism and actively worked to spread the religion throughout India), the city fell under the control of his empire and had Buddhist stupas built within it. Records of various pilgrimages suggest that the Buddha himself may have visited Kanchipuram, which explains the flourishing of the Buddhist tradition within the city, however, there are many other reasons for the city’s popularity that are based on fact and not on religious speculation. The first king to rule over Kanchipuram was Sivaskandavarman, who ruled in the middle of the third century BCE (Schellinger 436). His status as the first king of Kanchipuram has been disputed, though there is a certain mythological story of how a man named Virakurcha married the daughter of a naga (a serpentine type creature) and became the first king of the Pallava Dynasty (Schellinger 435). This story is purely mythological but still raises the question about Sivaskandavarman really being the first king. During the Pallava Dynasty, temple building in India turned from using wood as a primary source for building temples, to stone, a material that is much stronger and adds greater strength to the structure – this is why the temples in Kanchipuram have withstood weathering for centuries (Schellinger 437). Education grew during the Pallava Dynasty, particularly in the religious studies of Buddhism and Hinduism; Kanchipuram now has several colleges affiliated with the University of Madras (Schellinger 438). Over the centuries temples dedicated to Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism have been constructed by the followers of these religions (Schellinger 436). The fame Kanchipuram has gained as a holy city is undoubtedly due to the fact that it has been the site for visits from great spiritual teachers and the many magnificent temples that have been constructed to various gods and goddesses. Another factor is the religious teachings and enhanced sense of spirituality that one gains from venturing into the city, which is a major factor in the pilgrimages that the people of India make to Kanchipuram.

Kanchipuram has some of India’s most beautiful temples; one such temple is the Kanchi Kailasanathar temple. The emperor Rajasimha of the Pallava Dynasty is credited with commissioning the temples’ construction from 685 to 705 CE and dedicating it to the God Siva (Hudson 50), although there are other gods for whom the temple is also dedicated. It is the oldest temple in Kanchipuram and is famous for its architecture. An example of the famed architecture is one of the depictions of the god Siva carved into the temple as a begging ascetic on the south wall (Hudson 51), other carvings accompany this one and tell various stories that relate to Siva. This great temple was built in the 8th century by the architect Rajasimha and his son Mehendra (Dobbie 111), and is surrounded by smaller shrines. It is dedicated to the gods Visnu, Siva, Devi, Surya, Ganapathi and Kartikey, and its name means “Lord of the Cosmic Mountain” (Narasimha 96).  Another temple situated in the northern part of Kanchipuram is Ekambareswarar, which is the largest temple in the city and one of the main tourist attractions. It is dedicated to the god Siva; the temple is one of five major monuments built specifically to worship the god, each temple representing a different element (Ninan 132).  The legend behind this temple and one of the main reasons for its popularity is the story of Parvati. The legend states that Parvati, who was a companion of Siva, was praying underneath the temple’s mango tree, In order to test her faith and dedication, Siva set her on fire. Even while on fire, Parvati continued to pray and passed Siva’s test. She then constructed a Siva Linga (a mark used to worship Siva) out of sand to unite herself with Siva and the god came to be known as Ekambareswarar or “Lord of the Mango Trees” (Ayyar 71-72). There are many other legends pertaining to how this temple became one of the most revered places to worship Siva and a place of peace and spirituality but this is just one such example.

The Vaikuntha Perumal is the second imperial city built by Nandivarman II Pallavamalla, who was one of the emperors of the Pallava Dynasty (Hudson 52). It has many architectural marvels such as the massive vimana or towered sanctuary that rises above the temple and is said to be the place that the god of the temple dwells (Hudson 52). This structure has carvings depicting the establishment and history of the Pallava Dynasty, from its founding to the construction of the Vaikuntha Perumal (Hudson 52). Inside, a huge carving of Visnu is depicted as a god king and is facing west. On the outside of the temple there are three other sculptures facing the remaining cardinal directions (Hudson 53).

Rituals and ceremonies are a part of daily life in Kanchipuram. Various temples, sometimes share the same rituals. For example, a ritual performed at the Ekamra temple is also performed at the Varadaraja temple. The ceremony features priests of the temple making offerings to Varadaraja five times a day (Hudson 58). Yet, before the offerings are made, the Brahmins (priests) must summon Visnu’s presence within the temple through the uttering of mantras (Hudson 58). This praying to Visnu essentially wakes up the god and sets into motion all other rituals that are to take place that day. Along with the daily rituals and ceremonies are festivals that take place throughout the year. Festivals are conducted according to solstices and equinoxes. They are timed to coordinate with a day in the life of a god, where the winter solstice is the sunrise and the summer solstice is the sunset (Hudson 60). The year is also divided into different sections of months in which various festivals are to be performed. The beginning of the year, January, is a time to be thankful for the sun and a time to renew friendships (Hudson 61). The end of a year is called Margali and is from December to January and is the time of the year for meditation at the temples of Kanchipuram and reflection on the new knowledge one has gained throughout the year (Hudson 62).

Kanchipuram silk weavers are credited with producing the finest saris not just in South East Asia but also in the entire world. One factor that sets Kanchi saris above other saris is the silk that these garments are made from. Hand-woven, they are designed for auspiciousness. This means that the saris are meant to bring good fortune and happiness to the women who wear them and is directly related to the auspiciousness of events and persons the wearer may encounter (Kawlra 62); this quality of the saris gives them a religious appeal to their buyers. Also considered a part of the stages of life for women, various designs and patterns of the cloth can indicate the women’s different statuses – for instance, whether or not they are married (Kwalra 62). The makers of the clothing are called Padma Saliyars, and along with being skillfully trained in the art of weaving, they also have to have great knowledge of auspiciousness and inauspiciousness. The weavers also conduct their lives and work with good practice so as to heighten their own auspiciousness and allow them to transfer this into their weaving (Kwalra 64). The weavers of raasi saris consult constellations in an effort to remain in accordance with the cosmos and avoid inauspiciousness. Failure to avoid weaving during certain times of the year is said to result in “bad luck” for anybody involved in its selling, weaving or even wearing (Kwalra 64). The shop that produces the saris is regarded as an auspicious shop and purchases made there have to follow an almost ritualistic transaction. This means that when a customer purchases from the shop the sari has to be exchanged in front of the shop deity and wrapped in white cloth to ensure purity and auspiciousness (Kwalra 65). This concept of auspiciousness is not a factual reason for the saris’ high value; a more concrete reason is likely the quality of the product and its importance in religious rituals and wedding ceremonies that take place within the city.

The city of Kanchipuram is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and spiritual cities in India. Its history is permeated in mythology and mysticism and can inspire a sense of wonder in the visitor or researcher. The large number of temples offers an interesting view into the Hindu religion and its practices. They have been the sites of many pilgrimages for the ascetic traveler and the aspiring scholar. Famous religious figures have been said to have traveled to the city and worshipped there. This has added to the fame of Kanchipuram, as well as its revered status as a “sacred city.” Depictions of various gods and the beautiful architecture of the city shed light on a not-so-distant Hindu past that has influenced many religious followers. The rituals and ceremonies that are daily occurrences in Kanchipuram give the city a sacred appeal to the outsider. Along with a very prominent religious appeal, some of the residents profit from the production of the city’s famed saris and offer potential auspiciousness for the person that owns one. Kanchipuram will undoubtedly remain a place where worship and spiritual teaching of the Hindu religion can occur and will hold its place as one of the most sacred cities in India.
References and Further Recommended Reading

Ayyar P.V. Jagadisa (1993) South Indian Shrines: Illustrated. New Delhi: Asian Educational Services.

Dobbie, Aline (2006) India: The Elephants Blessing. Cambridgeshire: Melrose Book Press Limited.

Gopal, Madan (1990) India through the ages. K.S. Gautam, (ed). Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.

Hudson, D. Dennis, and Stratton Hawley John (2010) Krishna’s Mandala: Bhagavata Religion and Beyond. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Kawlra, Aarti (2005) Kanchipuram Sari: Design for Auspiciousness. Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Narasimha Rao, P.V.L (2008) Kanchipuram: Land of Legends, Saints and Temples. New Delhi: Readworthy Publications.

Ninan, M.M. (2008) The Development of Hinduism. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Padman, Kaimal (2005) Learning to See the Goddess Once Again: Male and Female in Balance at the Kailāsanāth Temple in Kāñcīpuram. Oxford University Press

Schellinger, Paul E (1996) International dictionary of historic places: Asia and Oceania. Singapore: Toppan Co.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Siva

Visnu

Asurya

5 sacred cities

Tamil Nadu

Ascetics

Auspiciousness

Inauspiciousness

Naga

Dharma

Cosmos

Siva Linga

Buddhism

Jainism

Sari

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.kanchi.tn.nic.in/

http://www.sudarshansilk.com

http://www.kanchi-project.sai.uni-heidelberg.de/

http://www.kanchi.nic.in/temples.htm

http://www.kanchikamakshi.com/

http://www.transindiatravels.com/tamil-nadu/kanchipuram/tourist-places-to-visit-in-kanchipuram

 

Article Written By: Josh Prefontaine (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

Magicians and Sorcerers in Hinduism

Magicians and sorcerers have a long history in Hinduism. The ancient Atharva Veda’s most salient teaching is sorcery (Bloomfield xxix). This Veda contains mainly mantras used in witchcraft or sorcery, in the curing of diseases, for destruction of enemies, etc. (Whitney vi). Many scholars have categorized the hymns of the Atharva Veda in different classes, as the hymns are meant to: secure long life, get good wishes of the deities, ward off misfortune, pardon the misdeeds, obtain the kingship, as well as others (Whitney ix). Other examples of these hymns include: charms to cure diseases and heal wounds; imprecations against demons, sorcerers, and enemies; charms to obtain a husband, wife, or son; and charms to obtain prosperity in house, field, cattle, business, gambling, and kindred matters (Bloomfield vii-xiii).

Many of the modern performances of Indian magic are simply tricks. Perhaps the best known of all the feats performed by Indian conjurers is the mango-tree trick (Carrington 5). A seed is placed in some earth and a mango-tree miraculously grows in mere moments (Carrington 6-8). The secret of this trick is the pliability of the tree; the leaf and twigs of the mango-tree are exceedingly tough, and can be folded into a very small space without breaking (Carrington 9). Thus they will resume their former expanded condition very rapidly, without any traces of the folding process (Carrington 9). Perhaps another of the best known tricks is the dry-sands trick (Carrington 26). A handful of sand is placed into a bucket of water, yet when removed it is completely dry (Carrington 26). This trick relies on the preparation of the sand; the sand must be cooked with a small amount of lard which covers the grains of sand with a slight coating of grease, rendering it impervious to water (Carrington 26-27).

The folk understandings of tribal magic among the Oraons of West Bengal and the Chotanagpur area is quite different from modern street magic-tricks. Kali Mai has traditionally been the major goddess of the village black magician (McDaniel 231). When Kali Mai’s power is sought, he erects a mud altar for her and sacrifices a red chicken and a black goat, thereby granting the magician what he wishes (McDaniel 231). Among the Savara people, a tribal group known for their skill at snake charming, Chandi may be evoked for both love magic and exorcism (McDaniel 38). A man who desires a woman collects the dust from her footsteps and brings it to the shaman (ojha) who chants an incantation three times; afterwards he sprinkles the dust upon the woman and she finds herself attracted to him (McDaniel 38).

A good example of folk tantra is a small handbook called the Dakini Tantra (McDaniel 78). It is written in Bengali, though it contains many Sanskrit mantras and is used by local tantric healers (McDaniel 78). It contains various instructions on how to enchant people, cure various bites, how to deal with ghosts and witches, as well as practices to gain vak siddhi, so that whatever a practitioner says comes true (McDaniel 79). The krisna satkarma or black magic rituals, traditionally teach the tantrika how to control both the physical world and other people (McDaniel 80). This includes varieties of hypnosis, creation of paralysis, bringing disease or madness, and other rituals to gain supernatural powers (McDaniel 80).

Faith healing has long been practiced in India. The Atharva Veda refers to amulet use on many occasions; an amulet is a sacred thing charged with the strength of a spirit (Niyogi 26). Amulets could not only heal, but also protect the wearer from any evil consequences (Niyogi 26). The materials used to construct such amulets were of the utmost importance, along with certain preparations and certain observances of ritual formalities (Niyogi 26). Amulets made of rice could grant the wearer long life and to protect against demon possession splinters from ten holy trees were to be worn (Niyogi 26-27). Spirit possession also has a very crucial role to play in the area of faith healing (Niyogi 91). Most spirit possession occurs on Tuesdays and Saturdays, though in some villages such phenomena occur on Fridays or Mondays (Niyogi 91). Bhar Haoya is a type of possession trance, typically a passive experience in which the medium opens his/her body so that the expected spirit being may enter into it and express himself or herself through it, usually by using the medium’s vocal organs (Niyogi 92). The mediums emphasize that “nothing will be effective without faith, nor even the best doctors; but with sufficient faith one can be cured with plain water” (Niyogi 94). Other mediums do not need to enter into a possession trance, as they can heal the discomforts with the aid of healing spirits (Niyogi 111). It appears that these spiritual healers can identify the sickness of a patient just by having a look at him or her. However, it is difficult to confirm if these healers can actually heal the patients (Niyogi 111).

A Sanskrit fragment in a collection of Balinese hymns and fragments called the Mahamaya describes the supranormal effects of meditation upon Visnu’s maya, here to be understood as that god’s ability to change his appearance at will (Goudriaan ix). Maya is an important element in Indian religious history, essentially meaning ‘magic’ (Goudriaan 1). Very often in the Vedas the word maya stands for the creation of a real, material form, be it human or non-human, by means of which the creator of that form shows his incomprehensible power (Goudriaan 2). Maya is a neutral force; when used by the gods it is a force for good though in the human environment maya is liable to degenerate into deceit or illusions (Goudriaan 2). Maya can be used by sorcerers to present themselves in the guise of wild animals, as when the demon Marica confronts Rama and his companions in the form of a gazelle in the Ramayana (Goudriaan 4). The Jatakas describe Brahmins who act as sorcerers; they can create a rain of precious stones, they know the languages of animals, they understand the science of conjuring demons and spirits and they ward off diseases and snakebites (Goudriaan 230).

Some modern accounts of sorcery have received media attention in recent years. A tantrik in a Bankura village confessed to beheading a newborn and licking the blood dripping from its severed head; he performed this act in public and police had to rescue him from being lynched by the locals (“The Times of India” 2012 February 3). Such events are not uncommon in rural India, nearly 2,100 people accused of witchcraft have been killed between 2000-2012 (“The Washington Post” 2014 July 21).

Not all accounts of modern sorcery are malevolent. In November 1993, a small group of Swedish tourists was taken to the Bank of the Ganges to watch an exorcism (Glucklich 141). A young woman, who had previously had a miscarriage, feared that her neighbour had thrown a curse on her to abort yet another child (Glucklich 141). The exorcist, Ram Prasad, laid out a wreath of marigold flowers in a circle and took three clay pots to the river (Glucklich 141). One of the pots was filled with water, the second with water and wine, and the third with only wine (Glucklich 141). He then lit three lumps of camphor inside the circle of flowers and proceeded on to the clove ritual, which was the main part of the exorcism (Glucklich 141). He touched her head with the clove and said, “You are the Goddess of Religion (Dharma), I will not stay here, I will not stay here, I will completely not stay here,” (Glucklich 142). He then touched the clove to her stomach and added, “I will tell you again, Mother of Religion, if she has any problem in her stomach or a headache or anything else, it will go out” (Glucklich 142). He then changed his voice to that of the goddess and said, “I am finishing everything, it is completely clear (as milk of milk and water of water), you will be clear and pure like milk” (Glucklich 142). He then made a guttural grunt as he pulled the clove away from the girl’s stomach and said, “This sickness will be gone, look I am taking out the witchcraft” (Glucklich 142). He then placed the clove into the mouth of a live fish and released it into the river while repeating, “I will never come (again), I will never come” (Glucklich 142). He ended the ritual after the fish was gone and then told the girl to touch the water where the puja had taken place (Glucklich 142). Later that night, at his house, Ram Prasad performed another puja and chanted, “It has gone completely,” seven times, offered wine to Ma Sakti and a necklace of flowers (Glucklich 142). He put a divination rod on the floor and lit seven pieces of camphor on it (Glucklich 142). Later he asked it if the illness was completely out of the girl, and it indicated that it was (Glucklich 142).

Magicians and sorcerers have long had a place in India, and they shall continue to for the foreseeable future as they are so ingrained in the fabric of Indian traditions, beliefs, and society.

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READINGS

Banerjee, Falguni (2012, February 3) “Tantrik confesses to child sacrifice in Bankura.” The Times of India. Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/Tanktrik-confesses-to-child-sacrifice-in-Bankura/articleshow/11735141.cms?referral=PM

Bloomfield, Maurice (1969) Hymns of the Atharva-Veda, Together With Extracts From the Ritual Books and the Commentaries. New York: Greenwood Press.

Brunton, Paul (1934) A Search in Secret India. London: Rider & Co.

Carrington, Hereward (1913) Hindu Magic: An Expose of the Tricks of the Yogis and Fakirs of India. Kansas City: The Sphinx Publishing Co.

Frost, Thomas (1876) The Lives of the Conjurers. London: Tinsley Brothers.

Glucklich, Ariel (1997) The End of Magic. New York: Oxford University Press.

Goudriaan, Teun (1978) Maya Divine and Human. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Kapferer, Bruce (1997) The Feast of the Sorcerer: Practices of Consciousness and Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Keshavan, M. S.; H. S. Naravanan; B. N. Gangadhar (1989) “‘Bhanamati’ Sorcery and Psychopathology in South India A Clinical Study.” British Journal of Psychiatry; Vol. 154: p.218.

McDaniel, June (2004) Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal. New York: Oxford University Press.

McCoy, Terrence (2014, July 21) “Thousands of women, accused of sorcery, tortured and executed in Indian witch hunts.” The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/07/21/thousands-of-women-accused-of-sorcery-tortured-and-executed-in-indian-witch-hunts/

Niyogi, Tushar K. (2006) Faith Healing: Studies in Myths and Rituals in Medicine and Therapy. Kolkata: R. N. Bhattacharya.

Shah, Tahir (2011) Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Incredible Journey into the World of India’s Godmen. New York: Arcade Publishing.

Sorcar, P. C. (1950) Hindu Magic. Calcutta: S. Gupta.

Unknown (2014, July 11) “3 arrested for murder of suspected sorcer.” The Hindu. Retrieved from http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/3-arrested-for-murder-of-suspected-sorcerer/article6200534.ece

Whitney, William Dwight (2000) Atharva-Veda-Samhita. Delhi: Parimal Publications.

Yelle, Robert A. (2003) Explaining Mantras: Ritual, Rhetoric, and the Dream of a Natural Language in Hindu Tantra. New York: Routledge.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Rsi

Svastayana

Marana

Ucchatana

Vasikarana

Stambhana

Vidveshanna

Siddha

Siddhi

Jadu-Tona

Totaka

Muth

Tantra-Mantra

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/266312/Hinduism/9024/Tantric-ritual-and-magical-practices

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_%28paranormal%29#Magic_in_Hinduism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_magicians

 

Article written by: Jesse Elliott (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.