Posts Tagged 'brass'

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.

Object: Buddha and Halo

Figure 1 Statue of Buddha with Halo from Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

Figure 1 Statue of Buddha with Halo from Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1955/18/245
Buddha and Halo statue
Asia: India/Nepal
Brass

This Buddha statue with flaming halo is roughly 29 ¾” tall, 18” wide, and 8 ½” deep. It features a Buddha figure on a lotus flower pedestal, with a halo of flames and Hindu deities surrounding him.

Buddhism is a widely practiced religion based on the teachings of Siddartha Gautama, an ancient prince who is believed to have given up all his worldly possessions and achieved the highest spiritual freedom: enlightenment. Different traditions of Buddhism have different beliefs about Buddha. Some believe he was an actual prince, others believe he was a reincarnation of a Hindu god, while still others believe there was no man at all, but simply the development and spread of an ideological belief system.

The hand symbols of any Buddha statue are significant in understanding the meaning of the statue’s presence. The hand positions are called “mudras” or “mark of identity” in Sanskrit. They are used in both Hinduism and Buddhism as a kind of language to evoke certain ideas or principals. This particular statue has the right hand in the position of charity and generosity, while the left hand appears to be in the position of wisdom.

The lotus throne that the Buddha is sitting on is a common theme in Asian religions, representing the path to enlightenment. The lotus flower is firmly grounded in the earth, yet is able to grow above the murky water of earthly suffering to enlightenment. The Buddha is commonly depicted with a lotus flower, or some kind of lotus reference, as seen here with his pedestal.

The Buddha is surrounded by Hindu deities in this statue, which helps contextualize the way Buddhism was received and adapted into cultures as it spread throughout Asia. Buddhism’s basic tenets speak to the basic tenets of many ancient and modern religions. To be a good Buddhist is to be morally right in knowledge, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. These tenets are then further identified in each regional interpretation of Buddhism. In this Buddha statue, we see that the ideas of reincarnation and a pantheon of gods are incorporated into the Buddhist framework of Indian and Nepalese beliefs.

To learn more about Buddhism, take a look at this BBC documentary:

[Anna Nowka]

Other Resources:

https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/budd/hd_budd.htm

http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/beliefs/purpose.htm

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/study/history_buddhism/general_histories/spread_buddhism_asia.html

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/approaching_buddhism/teachers/lineage_masters/who_was_shakyamuni_buddha/transcript.html

http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/symbols/lotus.htm

Harvey, Peter. 2013. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. Cambridge University Press: New York.

Photo Quiz Answer!

Thanks to everyone who took the photo quiz last week! Now, what is this object?

Answer: A TREASURE CHEST!

This is a brass treasure chest (or manuscript chest) from the Ethnology collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. It was collected in the early 20th Century and is inlaid with stones and decorated with gold filagree. Nepal, a country bordering both China and India, has a diverse and fascinating history defined in large part by their location in the Himalayas and their position as a cross-roads between China and India. A chest like this would have been used to hold small treasures and important manuscripts by wealthy nobles or perhaps members of the ruling family.

To see a timeline of Nepal’s complex history, take a look at this link.

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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