Posts Tagged 'Hindu'

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.

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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: Shadow Puppet

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Object: Shadow Puppet of Hindu Epic Character

Accession Number: E/2004/2/001

Object: Multicolored and metallic gold painted shadow puppet made of hide with 3 controlling rods.

Location: Java, Indonesia

Date: Pre-1980

Materials: Hide (possibly buffalo), possibly horn, string

Keywords: Shadow Puppet, Wayang, Shadow Theater, Southeast Asia

 

The “Shadow Puppet of Hindu Epic Character” in the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Museum exhibits many features that identify it as Javanese. These features include the joining of the feet at the base of the figure; the combination of a front-facing perspective of the shoulders with a profile view of the face, feet, and body; and the elongated neck and arms. In comparison to other images, Javanese shadow puppets share other features, including cupped hands, wrist and sometimes ankle bracelets, upper-arm adornments, complex head shapes, and elongated noses. [2]

[2][1]

Shadow Puppet in the Sam Noble Museum’s Ethnology Collection (left) and other Javanese shadow puppets with similar features

This shadow puppet is dated as pre-1980, and it is in good condition. The cutout figure is made of thin but sturdy hide, possibly buffalo hide as this is traditionally what shadow puppets of Java are made of. [2] The rods connected to the body and each hand are probably some type of horn because this is the material that was traditionally used. There are several small bands of elastic-like material attaching the main rod to the hide body, and bright blue joints at the shoulders and elbows that may be made of plastic. The rods that control the hands are connected to the hands with a string that is still very clean. Metallic gold paint is used most extensively compared to the multitude of other colors and covers the neck, chest, arms, and legs. The other colors include red, pink, dark blue, light blue, white, dark green, yellow, and light purple. The face is painted black with red and gold details.

Pictures showing more detail of the head, face, and torso of the puppet, taken at the Sam Noble Museum

The origin of shadow puppetry, which is practiced in distinct ways throughout Europe and Asia, is unclear, however, theories include precedents to Indonesian shadow puppetry from ancient Greece and nomadic tribes. For example, Plato described plays in ancient Greece in which figures were used to cast shadows on cave walls, probably as part of religious ceremonies. Nomadic peoples of Central Asia may have used shadow puppets made of leather as part of religious rites and ceremonies as well, using firelight to cast shadows onto the tent walls that they used as screens. The use of these puppets may have been continued among the nomadic peoples because of the ease with which the small figures could be packed up to use in ceremonies in their next location. Shadow puppetry may have been brought to Java, an island in Indonesia, by Buddhist missionaries accompanying Indian kings that invaded the island in the 6th century. Despite being introduced by an outside culture, shadow puppetry rapidly became a sophisticated and complex art form in Java that was distinct from other cultures’ puppetry traditions. [1]

Traditional Javanese shadow puppet (or wayang kulit) performances would take place over a course of up to 41 days and told epic stories that communicated philosophical and moral values of Javanese culture. The master shadow puppeteer, or dalang, would start each performance with an incantation. The solo puppeteer would be accompanied by an extensive musical ensemble that helped set the tone for each scene. The ensemble also played specific tunes to announce the entrance of new characters in the play. [1]

bellaspen_106967_9644658_blog post image 7A shadow puppet master, or dalang, mid-performance (http://beta.indonesia.travel/en/post/the-riveting-wayang-kulit-shadow-puppet-shows-of-java-and-bali)

In Javanese culture, the shadow puppet exhibits multifunctionality by serving as a theatrically functional tool of Javanese shadow puppetry while also serving as a store of philosophical and religious values. The “theatrical functionality of figures” is vitally important to the continuation of the shadow puppetry tradition in Java. [1] The assembly of Javanese shadow puppets includes movable joints and controlling rods because the main component of any shadow puppet’s value is its functionality. The shadow puppet in the Sam Noble Museum’s collection exemplifies ease of mobility with operating joints and coordination rods. The puppets are viewed as tools for the trade-like tradition of shadow puppet performance. As with any other traditional trade or art form, masters of shadow puppetry mentor young Javanese citizens who are their apprentices and aim to carry on the art form for the next generation. [2] In this way, the tradition and knowledge are passed down from one generation to the next with individual variation, as is indicative of folk culture. In addition to being functional tools, puppets serve as meaningful works of art. Shadow puppets were traditionally considered sacred objects, or pusaka, in Java. [2] Although the puppets are elaborately and intricately constructed and decorated, as exemplified by the Museum’s painted shadow puppet, the puppets also store cultural values that are most clearly communicated through every performance in which the puppets are used.

Shadow puppetry in Javanese culture is used to emphasize moral and philosophical values. One tradition that relates to this function is that Javanese shadow puppet plays begin with the evil characters on the left side of the screen of the play, and noble characters on the right. [1] Another traditional custom is the use of a 2D screen for performances to separate the audience from the play and emphasize the other-worldliness of the events and characters depicted in the show, although 3D screens are among the adaptations included in some modern performances. [2] Today, shadow puppetry is used to communicate the cultural importance and value of global topics such as deforestation and climate change. This is just one example of how new stories are emerging in Javanese shadow puppet repertoire that use many traditional elements and themes but addresses modern-day concerns [3].

 

This is a short video that summarizes the Javanese practice of wayang kulit, and includes clips of actual shadow puppet performances:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfydro4X2t0

 

 

Works Cited:

[1] Chen, Fan Pen. 2003. “Shadow Theaters of the World.” Asian Folklore Studies 62

(1): 25-64. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1179080.

 

[2] Cohen, Matthew Isaac. 2007. “Contemporary ‘Wayang’ in Global Contexts.” Asian

Theater Journal 24 (2): 338-369. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27568418.

 

[3] Diamond, Catherine. 2014. “Whither Rama in the Clear-Cut Forest:

Ecodramaturgy in Southeast Asia.” Asian Theater Journal 31 (2): 574-593.

URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43187442.

 

Additional Reading:

Cohen, Matthew Isaac. 2014. “Introduction: Global Encounters in Southeast Asian

Performing Arts.” Asian Theater Journal 31 (2): 353-368. URL:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/43187430.

 

((Aspen Bell)) Written as part of the ANTH1253 2018 Spring Semester Class Project

Object: Manuscript Box

E/1955/18/252
Kathmandu Valley, Nepal
ca. 19th Century
Materials: Bronze, Gold Gilding, Precious Stones, Persian Turquoise, Wood

Manuscript boxes like this one were used throughout Southeast Asia by both Hindus and Buddhists to store important religious texts. Their design varies with respect to materials and form. They all show intricate and ornate design work.

The top of this particular box shows the goddess Durga slaying Mahishasura (the buffalo demon), the theme of a famous Hindu story. No man, not even a god, could kill Mahishasura. The trinity of gods created Durga and gave her their weapons to defeat him. The battle of Durga is important in Hindu mythology and ancient art, and it is still told today.

Manuscripts featuring the story of Durga are considered amulets. They are valuable items that can protect their owners from some evil influences. This box is nailed shut, keeping its mysterious contents both safe and secret.

The Kathmandu Valley, where this box was made, has been an important site of cultural exchange since around 300 B.C. Located in Nepal, between India and Tibet, it contains a blend of both Hindu and Buddhist religions. An ancient trade route connected Asia, from Iran in the west, to China in the east. It linked cities in Pakistan, India, Burma and Thailand, and had a crucial stop in the Kathmandu Valley.

Artifacts from this area often reflect the diverse people that have passed through it. This box displays a Hindu goddess, but it contains inlaid turquoise from the Middle East and precious gems that are likely from Burma. It also draws on Burmese design, where manuscript boxes with feet were more common.

The spiral patterns and handcrafted details of this box are unique. They were created by the native people of Nepal, called the Newar. This box’s material, design and overall shape reflect the diversity of cultures, peoples, religions and materials that have existed in or passed through the Kathmandu Valley, from the 8th century to today. Watch the movie below to see a movie version of Durga slaying Mahishasura.

Work Cited

Jwajalapa.com
“The Newar Synthesis”. Accessed 1 October 2013, last modified 23 September 2008.  http://www.jwajalapa.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=61

Ratanapruck, Prista.
2007 Kinship and Religious Practices as Institutionalization of Trade Networks: Manangi Trade Communities in South and Southeast Asia. Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 50(2/3): 325-346.

Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India
2013 Mythology of Durga Puja. SJFI: India. Retrieved from http://www.durga-puja.org/mythology.html

UNESCO World Heritage Association
“Kathmandu Valley—UNESCO”. Accessed 1 October 2013, last modified 2013. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/121/

[Elly Roberts]


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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