manifestations of shiva and discourses on shiva

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Manifestations of Shiva and Discourses on Shiva Kapila Vatsyayan The exhibition Manifestations of Shiva and the symposium Discourses on Shiva: Nature of Religious Imagery. held in Philadelphia in April-May 1981. were events of great importance, both as scholarly achievement and as a new step in Indo-U. S. cultural relations. The exhibition was the culmination of the life-long pur suit of a subject by Stella Kramrisch, one of the world 's greatest living historians of Indian art. Her journey encompassing Indian art and her contribution in the field is as important as that of Ananda Coomaraswamy and Vasudeva Saran Agrawala. Amongst the pioneers, it was these three scholars who were mainly responsible for a body of work on different facets of Indian art which cumulatively stands for a distinctive point of view with a conceptual base. Others. particularly Niharranjan Ray. Moti Chandra and Karl Khandalawala. belong to yet another category of scholars re- sponsible for bringing new material to the forefront and clarifying many issues of foreign influences. assimilations, social significance and chronologies. C. Sivaramamurti stands in a class by himself, both in respect of iconographical studies and interpretative work . In the field of iconography today, he has no equal and he towers head and shoulders above the rest. In Philadelphia, Stella Kramrisch and C. Sivaramamurti met both phys- ically in space and on an intellectual plane. For this rare opportunity to be a spectator and witness to the meeting of two great minds, one was immeasurably grateful. Of course, one missed the presence of Niharranjan Ray for he would have provided a foil to these two scholars. The exhibition was thematically arranged, with a very clearly conceived plan and discerning selection of 200 examples from collections in the U. S., U. K., Europe and India. The sheer artistic excellence of the paintings, stone sculptures and bronzes was a treat for the ey e, and made even more meaningful through a dramatic and sen sitive presentation. This was Stella Kramrisch's statement on Shiva. articulated verbally in the catalogue and in her book The Presence of Shiva and visually supported in concrete terms through the exhibition. The uncreate. the unmanifest made manifest through the principle of bi-unity and of the one and the many and finally the triad is her theme. The power of concentration, of r e- straint and control at the very moment of creation is Stella Kramrisch's preoccu- pation. The holding and disbursal of the seed, her identification of the cosmic parado x. its manifestation through the complementary images of Shiva and Sh ak ti , of the Yogi Shiva watching his own states as Bhairava. Bhi kshatana and Aghor. is the glor y and joy of Stella Kramrisch herself reliving her theme at a heightened level of consciousness. Behind the great diversity of the manifestations 20

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Page 1: Manifestations of Shiva and Discourses on Shiva

Manifestations of Shiva

and

Discourses on Shiva

Kapila Vatsyayan

The exhibition Manifestations of Shiva and the symposium Discourses on Shiva: Nature of Religious Imagery. held in Philadelphia in April-May 1981. were events of great importance, both as scholarly achievement and as a new step in I ndo-U. S. cultural relations .

The exhibition was the culmination of the life-long pursuit of a subject by Stella Kramrisch, one of the world 's greatest living historians of Indian art. Her journey encompassing Indian art and her contribution in the field is as important as that of Ananda Coomaraswamy and Vasudeva Saran Agrawala . Amongst the pioneers, it was these three scholars who were mainly responsible for a body of work on different facets of Indian art which cumulatively stands for a distinctive point of view with a conceptual base. Others. particularly Niharranjan Ray. Moti Chandra and Karl Khandalawala. belong to yet another category of scholars re­sponsible for bringing new material to the forefront and clarifying many issues of foreign influences. assimilations, social significance and chronologies . C. Sivaramamurti stands in a class by himself, both in respect of iconographical studies and interpretative work . In the field of iconography today, he has no equal and he towers head and shoulders above the rest.

In Philadelphia, Stella Kramrisch and C. Sivaramamurti met both phys­ically in space and on an intellectual plane. For this rare opportunity to be a spectator and witness to the meeting of two great minds, one was immeasurably grateful. Of course, one missed the presence of Niharranjan Ray for he would have provided a foil to these two scholars.

The exhibition was thematically arranged , with a very clearly conceived plan and discerning selection of 200 examples from collections in the U. S., U. K., Europe and India . The sheer artistic excellence of the paintings, stone sculptures and bronzes was a treat for the eye, and made even more meaningful through a dramatic and sensitive presentation. This was Stella Kramrisch's statement on Shiva. articulated verbally in the catalogue and in her book The Presence of Shiva and visually supported in concrete terms through the exhibition . The uncreate. the unmanifest made manifest through the principle of bi-unity and of the one and the many and finally the triad is her theme. The power of concentration , of re­straint and control at the very moment of creation is Stella Kramrisch's preoccu­pation . The holding and disbursal of the seed, her identification of the cosmic paradox. its manifestation through the complementary images of Shiva and Shakti , of the Yogi Shiva watching his own states as Bhairava. Bhikshatana and Aghor. is the glory and joy of Stella Kramri sch herself reliving her theme at a heightened level of consciousness. Behind the great diversity of the manifestations

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Page 2: Manifestations of Shiva and Discourses on Shiva

of Shiva as Lingam, Chaturmukha, Ardhanarishvara, Yogi and Nataraja was a central image unseen but dominant in her vision . It was the Trimurti of Elephanta as was apparent to any sensitive observer of the exhibition. Stella Kramrisch confronting the image physically in Elephanta was a turning point in her career and she describes the experience vividly. This was her first entry into India in time and her first entry into the realm of the Indian spirit That first day's expe­rience in Bombay in the twenties of this century cumulatively flowered into the exhibition, the magnificient catalogue, the book, The Presence of Shiva, and the first two introductory lectures on the Shiva at Elephanta with which, appropri­ately enough, this Yajna on Shiva opened in Philadelphia. Elsewhere I have described Stella Kramrisch's conception and visualisation as also the experience of going with her through the exhibition during and after the installation. Almost of equal significance was the visit to the exhibition with Stella Kramrisch and C. Sivaramamur~i together and with the latter singly. In a flash , one saw that while Stella Kramrisch 's mind and spirit travelled to the fundamental abstract concepts and the emergence of the manifestation as Ardhanarishvara, Yog1; Bhairava, Nataraja, Tripurantaka, Somasundara with the Dev1; for C. Sivaramamurti it triggered off sh/oka aftersh/oka from Sanskrit literature. His monumental memory is a unique personal retrieval system and it was a fascinating and moving experience to hear the verses of Kalidasa, Ratnakara and other poets come alive through the images . He narrated story after story of the Lingoda Bhava, the Ardhanarishvara, recited the verses of the saints on the bull Nandi (who is none other than the ego of Shiva), cited references to the dalliance of Shiva and Parvati, their all too understandable domestic quarrels and tensions as seen in the Pahari paintings and Chalukyan images, the portrayal of Kartikeya in Kumarasambhavam and, above all , to the descriptions of the dance of Shiva. Stella Kramrisch and C. Sivaramamurti moved amongst the magnificent bronzes drawn from Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and South India, as they would amongst family members. They seemed to whisper secrets to each and to the images. A special communication through stance, posture and glance was evident This was a gift for those who had the sensitivity to see, hear, absorb and respond.

On the discussion table, the theme came alive in another dimension. Michael Meister's tightly structured symposium schedule sometimes did give way under the pressure of physical time or the over-zealousness of a few partici­pants trying to smother listeners with information, but the interest in the theme or the level of discussion never flagged. A rich array of Indian and Western scholarship was represented. There were the archaeologists (Debala Mitra, U. P. Shah, R. Nagaswamy, Krishna Deva, K. V . Soundara Rajan and H. Sarkar amongst the Indians, and Doris Chatham and Odile Divakaran amongst the Westerners) who have spent a life-time on particular forms of Shiva . There were others like M . Dhaky and Michael Meister who have specialised on Shiva monuments. Besides, there was a fair representation of younger scholars like Devangana Desai, Thomas Maxwell and others. There were also literary scholars such as Ludo Rocher, A K. Ramanujan. Barbara Stoler Miller, and Wendy O'Fiaherty . Walter Spink, Pratapaditya Pal, Pramod Chandra were among the others who participated in the symposium. Above all there was the presence of Stella Kramrisch and of C. Sivaramamurti. quiet. listening and, only occa­sionally and most meaningfully, intervening to clarify a point or make a state­ment Besides, amongst the participants and discussants were many lively alert

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minds from the disciplines of anthropology (.A:rjun Appadurai) and of Near Eastern Art and Archaeology (Irene Winters) and cultural historians (Pupul Jayakar from lnd1a) .

The symposium began with the Shiva monuments and a very ri c h and closely documented paper by Michael Meister on Shiva Forts in Centra l India . Through the paper and the line drawings and analysis. Michael Meister convin­cingly presented his case for the geometric configuration of the Shiva temples in the ground-plan and the elevation-plan and demonstrated how the Shaivite temples were transformed from sanctuaries to forts. His meticulous approach was a lesson in both methodology and analysis. A whole section was devoted to the Lakulish Images of Shiva which have been the subject of some controversy. Debala Mitra concentrated upon Eastern India and U. P. Shah on the images of Shiva as Lakulish in Western India. Doris Chatham's paper on the Shiva images in Elura was informative, although. in her analysis of the dance panels of Elura, she did not contribute anything new on the subject and seemed to rely heavily upon Gopinath Rao. Similarly, Odile Divakaran's paper on Durga, the great goddess, was rich and informative and massive data relating to the Durga image was presented. The most important amongst the new approaches to the Shiva images was Thomas Maxwell's paper on the reassessment of the Shiva at Pare!. Understandably, this paper gave rise to a heated controversy because Thomas Maxwell sought to disturb the hitherto accepted notion of dividing plastic images in terms of the three loka-s (worlds) and evaluated the panel as a meditational construct. Perhaps the publication of this paper wdl provoke further stimulating comment. M . Dhaky presented a very charming paper on the Bhuta-s and Bhutanayaka-s, specially their schematic presentation In the temples. His paper gave rise to a discussion on the sociological interpretation of the Gana and Bhuta figures, their placement and their function in a total design .

R. Nagaswamy, as was to be expected, presented hitherto unpublished material relating to the Chola Shiva figures and also sought to re-interpret the IConography and significance of the Brihadeshvara temple. He also offered an explanation for the placing of the reliefs of the 108 dancin9 karana-s in Brihadeshvara. above the garbha gnha. He interpreted the temple, its structure and the planning of the main lingam and the reliefs as a replica of the cosmic dance of consciousness. This is indeed a novel explanation and further responses to this thesis would be eagerly awaited . C. Sivaramamurti silently yet eloquently nodded, thus giving his assent. Similarly Devangana Desai's paper was a re-mter­pretation of the mithuna figures in Khajuraho. She competently refuted earlier theories on the subject. specially those based on the Tantric cults and analysed these reliefs in terms of the Sandhya Bhasha and the Shriyantra. Again this is an ongmal and refreshingly new approach which requires further discussion. Her paper was a model of conciseness and organisational clarity in presentation.

"""" Shiva. King of Dancers. Chola Dynasty. Tamil Nadu. tenth century Bronze, height 30" Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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There was a lively session on the literature and poetry of Shiva. While Ludo Rocher gave an account of the development of the theme in the Purana-s. A. K. Ramanujan presented the powerful Shaivite poetry of medieval Kannada bhakti poets. Barbara Stoler Miller's paper on Kalidasa's verbal icon (Ashtamurti) was thought-provoking. Wendy O'Fiaherty presented a very interesting paper on Shiva Erect and Supine. She sought to interpret Shaivite mythology in the light of Freudian psychology and of the structuralism of Levi Strauss . This paper was well-received except for a debate on her interpretation of even the Trivikrama image of Vishnu as a sex symbol. Her identification of the Durga images as symbols of war, battle and love was well-taken and could be further supported . The dis­cussion on the paper revolved around concepts and paradigms of understanding a civilization and culture from the inside and outside. It was argued by some of the participants that looking at Indian myth through Freud and the paradigm of binary opposites might not always help to bare the whole truth. For example. it was said that instead of the binary opposites, could not the principle of the triad (trimurt1; tnkala. triguna, tripurantaka, triloka. trisandhya) be considered as more pertinent for identifying the typology? A paper on Natesha was presented by Kapila Vatsyayan where the history of scholarship in respect of the identification of the Nataraja images was discussed. Also presented was a new chronology for the three sites in South India which have a systematic depiction of the 108 karana-s in stone relief.

There were also papers on the Shiva theme and the Gorakhnatha theme 1n Indian painting and the place of the Shiva theme in Orissa in the context of the Jagannatha cult. Both Pramod Chandra and Joanna Williams presented papers which were convincingly competent. with a well-defined structure and conclusions .

The two major events were supplemented by several other programmes, specially in the Museum, comprising music and dance recitals, lectures and above all a film called Manifestations of Shiva by Malcolm Leigh.

Outstanding amongst the music and dance recitals was a memorable concert by Vishwanath and Ranganath (Balasaraswati's brothers) on Shaivite music and another by Ranganayaki. There were performances by Rita Devi. Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. and Kapila Vatsyayan . Amongst the lectures those of Wendy O'Fiaherty, Pratapaditya Pal. Pramod Chandra and B. N. Goswami were quite popular .

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