Object: Brass Lamps

Object: Brass Temple Lamps (2)

E/1955/18/272-a-b

Nepal

12 Century A.D.

Brass (metallic alloy of copper and zinc)

Hinduism, Nepal, Brass, Lamp, Durga

This set of oil lamps (that belong with a set of bases) was donated to the Sam Noble Museum by a Mr. Richard Gordon Matzene in 1955. Both the lamps and bases are currently housed in the ethnography collection. The set originally came from a Hindu temple in Nepal. The lamp height is approximately 39” and it is crafted entirely out of brass. The set dates back to 12th century A.D. Depicted on each lamp is the Hindu goddess Durga; she is distinguishable by the multitude of symbolism surrounding her.

Nepal is land-locked by both China and India; due to the country’s geographical location and its history of migration, conquest and trade, Nepal has a blending of Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Mongolian influences. Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion 1. Within Hinduism, Durga is the mother goddess and protector of the universe.

woodemma_83180_9644942_Pic 3

Durga stands for all that is good in the world and constantly fights the forces of evil.  She has eight arms, each holding a symbolic object/weapon given to her by other beings 2. Such objects include, but are not limited to: the sword, the bow and arrow, the lotus flower, and the conch shell. Each object symbolizes different concepts. For example, the conch represents happiness, the club represents devotion, the bow and arrow represent character and the lowered right hand represents forgiveness. Durga is often depicted with a lion or tiger. The lion represents the control of tendencies such as anger, arrogance, and greed, while the tiger represents unlimited power 3.

Hinduists believe that objects “contain the essence of the deities they represent” 1. The depiction of the goddess is in the center while the remainder of the lamp expands around her. Since we know Durga is symbolic for being motherly and universal, we can conclude this is a very deliberate aesthetic decision. Durga is the centerpiece because she is the universe. The expansion of the universe is a fundamental concept built into the culture of the Hindu people of Nepal.

woodemma_83180_9644943_Pic 4

The object originates from a religious setting and there are Hindu symbols within the design of the lamp. Durga is depicted in the lamps holding a sword as well as a bow and arrow, signaling with her lower hand, and with both lion and tiger figures at her feet. When combined, these symbols represent eradication of evil qualities, righteous values, forgiveness, ultimate power and control of wicked tendencies.

Durga is a mascot for all that is good and pure in the world; thus, it is her duty to fight to expose and eradicate evil. In this context, the goddess Durga (when depicted on the lamp set) provides light through witch her followers may use to see the goodness and truth in the world. The artifact directly communicates its significance to the observer. Not only is it a lamp, but it is symbolic for the goddess herself.

This lamp set would have been used in a functional way, along with the religious connotation it expresses. It is still unclear whether the lamp was used continuously or only during specific celebrations or seasons. If it was the latter, it could have possibly been used in rituals or ceremonies concerning the Living Goddess of Nepal. Click on the link to learn more about this custom: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-living-goddess-of-nepal-1769500 5.

((Shannah Will))-Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

 

Works Cited:

Nepal

Countries and Their Cultures. http://www.everyculture.com/Ma-Ni/Nepal.html#ixzz58RM6B5F4, accessed February 17, 2018.

Marchand, Peter

Durga. Hindu Goddesses: Durga – Hindu goddess that kills your demons. http://www.sanatansociety.org/hindu_gods_and_goddesses/durga.htm#.WpcSCpPwYxg, accessed February 17, 2018.

Self-Development and Happiness e-Newsletter

Path To Anandam. https://www.pathtoanandam.org/symbolismsignificance-of-goddess-durgas-8-hands-with-weapons-and-her-teachings, accessed February 17, 2018.

Masselos, Jim

2006 Goddess: Divine Energy, ‘A goddess for everyone: the mass production of divine images’, Sydney, 148 ( colour illus.), https://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/ collection/works/105.2011/,  accessed March 8, 2018

Das, Subhamoy

2017 The Living Goddess in Nepal: How Nepalese Girls are Worshiped as Deities. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-living-goddess-of-nepal-1769500, accessed March 8, 2018.

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