Special Issue "Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (10 March 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Phyllis Granoff
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religious Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA
Interests: classical religions of India–Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism; Indian art and literature
Dr. Sonya Rhie Mace
Website
Guest Editor
Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA
Interests: Indian and Southeast Asian Art and culture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This issue brings together articles about the interplay between the visual arts and literature in pre-modern Indian religions. They explore the novel ways in which sculpture, painting, architecture, even textiles, made use of literary sources or themselves figured in literary works. For example, illustrations on manuscripts had a complex relationship to the written words, sometimes ignoring them, but at other times depicting even their most subtle word-plays;  cults of miraculous images drew on widely known stories like the Mahābhārata and further depended on written and oral sources to spread  accounts of the miracles; temples, like cities, were the focus of elaborate descriptions in poetry and drama, while techniques of dyeing cloth became metaphors for the firmness of religious commitment and knowledge. For scholars today unusual features in sculpture or painting can help illuminate the history of textual accounts and shed light on the transmission of religious ideas across cultures. The essays together provide a template for deepening our understanding of art and religion in India by reading and seeing in consort.

Dr. Phyllis Granoff
Dr. Sonya Rhie Mace
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Buddhism
  • Jainism
  • Hinduism
  • painting
  • sculpture
  • literature

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
Introduction to the Special Issue: Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions
Religions 2021, 12(1), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12010057 - 15 Jan 2021
Abstract
Relationships between text and image in pre-modern South Asia1 have been both ignored and exploited throughout the history of western scholarship [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Dyeing the Springtime: The Art and Poetry of Fleeting Textile Colors in Medieval and Early Modern South Asia
Religions 2020, 11(12), 627; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120627 - 24 Nov 2020
Abstract
This paper explores the metaphorical and material significance of short-lived fabric dyes in medieval and early modern South Asian art, literature, and religious practice. It explores dyers’ manuals, paintings, textiles, and popular and devotional poetry to demonstrate how the existence of ephemeral dyes [...] Read more.
This paper explores the metaphorical and material significance of short-lived fabric dyes in medieval and early modern South Asian art, literature, and religious practice. It explores dyers’ manuals, paintings, textiles, and popular and devotional poetry to demonstrate how the existence of ephemeral dyes opened up possibilities for mutability that cannot be found within more stable, mineral pigments, set down on paper in painting. While the relationship between the image and the word in South Asian art is most often mutually enhancing, the relationship between words and color, and particularly between poetry and dye color, operates on a much more slippery basis. In the visual and literary arts of South Asia, dye colors offered textile artists and poets alike a palette of vibrant hues and a way to capture shifts in emotions and modes of devotion that retained a sense of impermanence. More broadly, these fragile, fleeting dye materials reaffirm the importance of tracing the local and regional histories even of objects, like textiles, that circulated globally. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
The Translation of Life: Thinking of Painting in Indian Buddhist Literature
Religions 2020, 11(9), 467; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11090467 - 14 Sep 2020
Abstract
What are paintings? Is there a distinctive mode of experience paintings enable? What is the value of such experience? This essay explores such questions, confining attention for the most part to a few distinctive moments in Indian Buddhist texts. In particular, I focus [...] Read more.
What are paintings? Is there a distinctive mode of experience paintings enable? What is the value of such experience? This essay explores such questions, confining attention for the most part to a few distinctive moments in Indian Buddhist texts. In particular, I focus on invocations of painting in figures of speech, particularly when paintings are invoked to make sense of events or experiences of particular importance. The aim is not to be exhaustive, but to suggest a meta-poetic orientation: On the basis of moments where authors think with figurations of painting, I want to suggest that in Buddhist texts one begins to find a growing regard for the possibilities of re-ordering and transvaluing sense experience. After suggesting the possibility of this on the basis of a preliminary consideration of some figures of speech invoking painting, this essay turns to the reconstruction of what I call aesthetic stances to make sense of the idea of new possibilities in sense experience. I derive the concept of “aesthetic stances” on the basis of a close reading of a pivotal moment in one Buddhist narrative, the defeat of Māra in The Legend of Aśoka. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
Open AccessArticle
The Carving of Kṛṣṇa’s Legend: North and South, Back and Forth
Religions 2020, 11(9), 439; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11090439 - 25 Aug 2020
Abstract
This paper emphasizes the role played by the sculptural tradition in the elaboration of religious narratives that today are mostly studied through texts. It aims to demonstrate that according to the documents we know, the legend of Kṛṣṇa has been built through one [...] Read more.
This paper emphasizes the role played by the sculptural tradition in the elaboration of religious narratives that today are mostly studied through texts. It aims to demonstrate that according to the documents we know, the legend of Kṛṣṇa has been built through one continuous dialogue between different media, namely texts and carvings, and different linguistic areas, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. Taking the motif of the butter theft as a basis, we stress the role played by the sculptural tradition and Tamil poetry, two elements less studied than others, at the foundation of a pan-Indian Kṛṣṇa-oriented heritage. We posit that the iconographic formula of the cowherds’ station as the significant background of the infancy of Kṛṣṇa led to the motif of the young god stealing butter in the texts, through the isolation of one significant element of the early sculpted images. The survey of the available documents leads to the conclusion that, in the southern part of the peninsula, patterns according to which stone carvings were done have been a source of inspiration in Tamil literature. Poets writing in Tamil authors knew texts transmitted in Sanskrit, Prākrit, and Pāli, and they certainly had listened to some others to which we have no access today. But we give reasons to assume that the authors of the said texts were also aware of the traditional ways of representing a child Kṛṣṇa in the visual domain. With these various traditions, poets of the Tamil country in the later stage of Tamil Caṅkam literature featured a character they may not have consciously created, as he was already existent in the visual tradition and nurtured by the importance of one landscape animated by cowherds in the legend of Kṛṣṇa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
Words and Pictures: Rāmāyaṇa Traditions and the Art of Ekphrasis
Religions 2020, 11(7), 364; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11070364 - 17 Jul 2020
Abstract
This article examines two ambitious enactments of the Rama story or Rāmāyaṇa, side by side: the 17th-century painted Mewar Rāmāyaṇa and Vālmīki’s epic poem (ca. 750–500 BCE). Through a formal analysis of two crucial episodes of the tale, it highlights the creative tactics [...] Read more.
This article examines two ambitious enactments of the Rama story or Rāmāyaṇa, side by side: the 17th-century painted Mewar Rāmāyaṇa and Vālmīki’s epic poem (ca. 750–500 BCE). Through a formal analysis of two crucial episodes of the tale, it highlights the creative tactics of each medium and stresses their separate aesthetic interests and autonomy. While A. K. Ramanujan’s notion of the “telling” has been immensely influential in South Asian studies to theorize the Rāmāyaṇa’s multiplicity, that concept tends to privilege speech-based embodiments. I propose, by contrast, that ekphrasis may be a more broadly applicable lens. Understanding ekphrasis as an enactment of the Rama story in any medium or in interart media, I advocate for considering poetry and painting on an equal plane as opposed to the standard view of the Mewar paintings as visual translations of linguistic phenomena. Ekphrasis, as a gateway to the maker’s creative process and preoccupations, is central to the paper’s argument, as is the role receivers play in the act of Rāmāyaṇa making. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
“On Golden Tablets”: The Cleveland Museum of Art’s Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Manuscript as a Self-Referential Icon
Religions 2020, 11(6), 274; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11060274 - 01 Jun 2020
Abstract
This article examines the paintings on the five surviving illuminated palm-leaf folios and the interiors of the two wooden covers of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s almost complete Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, or the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra, from the early [...] Read more.
This article examines the paintings on the five surviving illuminated palm-leaf folios and the interiors of the two wooden covers of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s almost complete Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, or the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā-sūtra, from the early twelfth century (CMA, Acc. No. 1938.301). Earlier scholarship on the CMA manuscript has overlooked the importance of the first folio, which depicts centrally a female personification of the Prajñāpāramitā text itself. Focusing on the details of the image and comparing it to the other instances of the figure in the manuscript, I argue that the golden image of Prajñāpāramitā on folio 1v serves as the core self-referential icon of the manuscript, alluding to not only the content of the text itself, but also to the very manuscript the image resides in. This essay shows the ways in which South Asian palm-leaf manuscripts can be understood from the purview of materiality, already well established in the scholarship of western European medieval parchment manuscripts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
The Uses of Human Malleability: Images of Hellish and Heavenly Sojourns in Pre-Modern Burma
Religions 2020, 11(5), 230; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11050230 - 07 May 2020
Abstract
For more than a millennium, Burmese donors sponsored elaborately decorated structures to publicize their allegiance to the Buddha’s Dhamma in its Pali version, illuminating their understanding of the human predicament. The structures always featured décor informed by revered texts, the Buddha’s words or [...] Read more.
For more than a millennium, Burmese donors sponsored elaborately decorated structures to publicize their allegiance to the Buddha’s Dhamma in its Pali version, illuminating their understanding of the human predicament. The structures always featured décor informed by revered texts, the Buddha’s words or Buddhavacana and its elaborators, that in the context of the biography of Gotama Buddha writ large, recalled numerous sub-chapters en route to Awakening. Throughout that immensely long timeframe, conceptions of retribution, recalling sojourns in various hells or heavenly mansions, remained constant. Their interpretation, however, moved with the times, reflecting the ever-shifting components of the Gotama saga designed to meet changing circumstances. The article explains why and how these two subjects sustained their influence, how their meanings changed, and how their visual interpretation reflected contemporaries’ grasp of the future. The core argument asserts that behind the images was a socializing conditioning mechanism revealing this setting’s ideational substructure. That substructure’s lineaments exploited psychological and physiological assumptions regarding how humans functioned, harnessing emotions evoked by stories and images and utilizing fear as a form of societal control. The aim was to create what throughout Burmese history were called “the good people”—ideal subjects for a dhamma-governed society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
Clearing the Course: Folio 348 of the Nepalese Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra in the Cleveland Museum of Art
Religions 2020, 11(4), 183; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11040183 - 11 Apr 2020
Abstract
The final 15 folios of the Nepalese illuminated palm-leaf manuscript of the Sanskrit Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra of c. 1100 have more paintings per page, larger picture planes, and different types of scenes than are found on the leaves surviving from the first 340 folios. One [...] Read more.
The final 15 folios of the Nepalese illuminated palm-leaf manuscript of the Sanskrit Gaṇḍavyūha-sūtra of c. 1100 have more paintings per page, larger picture planes, and different types of scenes than are found on the leaves surviving from the first 340 folios. One example is Folio 348 in the Cleveland Museum of Art, which has been painted with scenes of a bodhisattva tossing a blue-skinned heretic, an unusual image of a monk or upāsika wearing blue robes, and a Vajrācārya priest setting a Hindu rishi ablaze. From the point of view of the Mahāyāna Buddhist makers of this manuscript, these figures may personify the wrong views that derail pilgrims on the bodhisattva path to enlightenment. The dramatic shift in imagery appears to reflect the transition from the end of the inspirational pilgrimage of Sudhana to the popular, protective dhāraṇī verses of the Bhadracarī that form the finale to the text. The scenes of destruction and elimination of heretical figures correspond with sentiments in the Bhadracarī, indicating that the artists understood the structure and content of the text. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
Brahmā at the Ajapāla Banyan Tree: Re-Examining Paintings at the Sulamani Temple, Bagan
Religions 2020, 11(4), 171; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11040171 - 05 Apr 2020
Abstract
This article examines how the literary evidence corroborates with the visual evidence for the unusual presence of Brahmā with the Buddha at the Ajapāla banyan tree of the goatherd symbolizing the Fifth of the Seven Weeks after the Enlightenment of the Buddha in [...] Read more.
This article examines how the literary evidence corroborates with the visual evidence for the unusual presence of Brahmā with the Buddha at the Ajapāla banyan tree of the goatherd symbolizing the Fifth of the Seven Weeks after the Enlightenment of the Buddha in the paintings of the recessed chamber in the east corridor of the Sulamani temple in Bagan in Burma. The presence of Brahmā at the Ajapāla banyan tree is puzzling, because most of the mural paintings in Burma and Sri Lanka follow the chronological order given in the Nidānakathā, and, as a result, the intervention of Brahmā pleading with the Buddha to reconsider his decision not to expound the doctrine takes place in the Eighth Week. The painting of the encounter of Brahmā and the Buddha at the banyan tree in the Sulamani temple in the Fifth Week is thus a notable exception. It is argued that the visual artist of the Sulamani temple who introduced Brahmā in an earlier than normal context knew the narratives in the Pāli Mahāvagga and in the Nidānakathā well and, to shorten a long story, selected quite wisely the Ajapāla banyan tree of the goatherd where both events took place, meaning the Fifth and Eighth Weeks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
Traces of Reciprocal Exchange: From Roman Pictorial Models to the World’s Earliest Depictions of Some Narrative Motifs in Andhra Reliefs
Religions 2020, 11(3), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030103 - 26 Feb 2020
Abstract
Based on a selection of examples from the sculptural art of Andhra, the paper discusses what possibly motivated the inclusion of motifs and stylistic elements from the ancient Mediterranean into the Buddhist art of the region. While in some cases such adaptations may [...] Read more.
Based on a selection of examples from the sculptural art of Andhra, the paper discusses what possibly motivated the inclusion of motifs and stylistic elements from the ancient Mediterranean into the Buddhist art of the region. While in some cases such adaptations may have been driven by the need to find suitable solutions for the depiction of critical events or by the fact that a foreign motif tied in perfectly with already existing concepts, and thus, reinforced the message to be conveyed, in other cases no such reasons can be detected. Artists seem to have used foreign image types and stylistic variations deliberately to show their supreme craftsmanship or to add aesthetic sophistication to the image programme. The artists of Andhra, therefore, can by no means be regarded as epigones slavishly adhering to the examples set by the Mediterranean; the region—which is the place where narratives later spreading over large parts of Asia and Europe were first depicted—rather has to be regarded as on par with the classical cultures of Greece and Rome in terms of artistic versatility and creativity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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Open AccessArticle
Coloring the World: Some Thoughts from Jain and Buddhist Narratives
Religions 2020, 11(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11010009 - 23 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
This paper begins with an examination of early Indian speculation about colors, their number, their use, and their significance. It ranges widely from the Upaniṣads to the Nāṭyaśāstra, from Śvetāmbara Jain canonical texts to Buddhaghosa’s treatise on meditation, the Visuddhimagga, from [...] Read more.
This paper begins with an examination of early Indian speculation about colors, their number, their use, and their significance. It ranges widely from the Upaniṣads to the Nāṭyaśāstra, from Śvetāmbara Jain canonical texts to Buddhaghosa’s treatise on meditation, the Visuddhimagga, from purāṇas to technical treatises on painting. It turns then to examine how select Jain and Buddhist texts used color in two important scenarios, descriptions of the setting for events and the person of the Jina/Buddha. In the concluding reflections, I compare textual practices with a few examples from the visual record to ask what role if any the colors specified in a story might have played in the choices made by an artist. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Seeing and Reading: Art and Literature in Pre-Modern Indian Religions)
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