The Art of Hinduism

by Aranyakananda

I passed on Saraswati Puja last night. I just wasn’t feeling up to being in temple last night. I just felt like having a very quiet night. During the afternoon I had re-connected with a friend who is recently out of rehab and is full of renewed energy, faith in herself and her purpose. She used to work with me, but is now off pursuing other ventures, one of which is a podcast. It is going to focus on art in the area of my home town. She said she’d love to have me on as a guest to chat a few minutes about any particular relevant topic that interested me.

I told her I would be interested in talking about the artistic aspect of Hinduism. But my main concern is I don’t know how I could keep this to a few of minutes. Frankly I don’t know how I could do it without turning into a huge human windbag.

But I would like to try, without scaring people off. You know how people are when they hear the topic of religion is coming up! The tricky part will be to avoid anything that could be misconstrued as me preaching my own philosophy/religion. The intent would solely be to demonstrate the beauty and artful nature inherent in our Dharma. I verified this would involve video rather than just audio, which would not lend itself to the subject-matter quite as well.

Without even getting into the meat of the religion, I’d love to discuss the artistic symbolism to be found in the more well-known Murtis for example, and maybe even the grand metaphor that is the Gita. But to give it a local appeal, I would also like to explain some of the artistry involved in some of the festivals which are celebrated right here in town. Open up the public to awareness of it, at least. I have heard so many people in my life say “I know next to nothing about Hinduism.”

But at the same time, obviously I am adamant that the Murtis be portrayed as far from just art, just images, lest audience members get visions of idolatry dancing in their heads. Shouldn’t be too hard given the symbolism, but it is a concern.

Lastly, and mainly really, my concern about doing this would be my ability to clearly convey to non-Hindus a glimpse into a world that I myself have only been a part of for a few years. Even writing this, I feel it is a bit presumptuous to go on the air and be seen as a self-proclaimed embassador of Hinduism when there is a large community here of life-long Hindus. The thing about it is that since it is a show about art, the visual and frankly more superficial aspects would likely be a focus. I would be okay with that as long as, as I said above, it is understood that there is a wealth beneath the surface.

Anyway these are all things I am considering. If not, then there are a few other topics I am kicking around. Either way Saraswati Maa was present in a big way yesterday, both fulfilling my buried desire for a creative outlet, and bringing me a reason to post here again (even if just this post, for now).

I wish you all a peaceful closing few days of Maha Navaratri. My hope for you all is that you recognize your inner wisdom, embrace it, bottle it up, and wield it at the appropiate moment. Think big. Love vastly.

Aum Maa Saraswatyai Namah
Jai Hari Aum

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2 Responses to The Art of Hinduism

  1. Dhrishti says:

    All cultures are closely linked to the art that springs from that culture. Indeed, that artistic expression is, whether in music or painting or architecture – or any other medium, an outward reaching of that culture. It’s a way for that culture to say, “This is me.”

    When considering any culture’s artistic manifestation, it’s important to look primarily at the small picture of what you’re discussing (painting, architecture, sculptures, music, etc…), while keeping it still within the context of the culture that spawned that art. You have to be very aware of the time period that art piece comes from and be very aware of the shape of the culture that influenced that art as it was created.

    I think this might be particularly challenging with Hindu art. Hindu culture is unique in that the divine is everywhere and pervades all. Unlike Christian art and culture, which are connected yet distinct, Hindu religion/spirituality and art are far more closely linked. Deliberate effort has to be made so that the two are spoken of separately, and additional effort is required to maintain that separation. If those two efforts are not only incredibly clear but also successful to the same degree, potential discussion of the art will likely come off as an attempt to indoctrinate – even if only a subtle attempt. I would guess the effort to be one more easily achieved by a non-Hindu because outsiders are more perhaps more likely to approach the subject without “baggage.”

    ** As an aside, a distinction should be made between a murti and an idol. A murti is special and has been the target of invocation and pranaprathishta and subsequent ritual care. Any other image which is the target of reverence, but not worship is likely an idol. Idols can easily be a part of art, when art is revered beyond being mere art – but even then it’s still not technically a murti. Someone from outside of the faith, coming to the discussion with adequate knowledge of such things, would likely be able to objectively differentiate between the two. Someone who is more… involved with the culture and any faith coming from it, would likely come to the discussion with a slant toward idolizing mere art because of what the art would be representing or expressing. Those same investments could possibly cloud the understanding outsiders gain from that discussion insofar as the difference between religion and art are concerned, and may well leave the guests with the understanding that idols, art, and murtis are synonymous.

    • treadmarkz says:

      The host of the aforementioned podcast has decided that a second topic of my choice would be best, and at this time I agree. Still Aum Maa Saraswatyai Namah!

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