Gadwal’s Peda Soma Bhupala watching a dance performance, c. 1800 Telangana. British Musuem

Gadwal was one of the most prestigious of Hyderabad’s samsthanas, being among the oldest, largest, and wealthiest of them. Gadwal’s handloom weaving industry is renowned for its exquisite silk sarees and zari work. Of Gadwal’s rulers, Soma Bhupala or Somanadri was particularly well-known for having won many battles and strengthened the state. He improved the infrastructure of the town, and built a great many temples including the Chennakesava Swamy temple inside the Gadwal Fort in the 17th century. Large gatherings of scholars would be held twice a year at Gadwal, which acted as a thriving centre for the arts, and…

Viṣṇu standing under the hood of a seven-headed Śeṣa Nepal, ca. 17th century Copper alloy sculpture; Rubin Museum of Art

“Hindu images are not only an expression of the devotion of the believer, but also the representation through plastic or painted figures of a tremendously rich and multi-farious theological and philosophical background. When we are confronted with a Hindu image, we are not only admiring its aesthetic values, but we are deciphering a symbol in which are concentrated centuries-old institutions: an image is a book in which primitive glimpses of universal archetypes are exalted into bold metaphysical systems and devotional mystic ecstasies; Indian art does not express things but sublime ideas, complex meditations, flashing intuitions. …

A mūrti of Sage Patañjali at the Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune

The illustrious King Bhoja of the Paramara dynasty of western and central India (c. 11th century) who wrote multiple treatises, literary works, poetry collections, and commentaries in Sanskrit, being a magnificent patron of the arts and a polymath himself. He revived the tradition of Sanskrit culture and generously patronised artists and scholars. He established a huge Sanskrit university in Dhārā, called the Bhojaśāla, where students from across the country would live and study literature, astrology, science, and more. About 84 original works on the arts, literature, grammar, medicine, yoga, astrology, architecture, religion and philosophy, law and jurisprudence, etc are attributed…

Temple of Bhimsen at Bhaktapur in Nepal, Henry Oldfield, British Library

Bhīmasena, the second of the five Pāṇḍava brothers in the Mahābhārata, is worshipped in Nepal as a form of Bhairava. Referred to as ‘Bhīmsen’, he is especially popular among the Newar business/trading community, which worships his images on small altars in shops as the God of commerce and prosperity. Inscriptional evidence shows that Bhīmasena has been worshipped in Nepal at least since 1540, but the cult is likely to be older. …

The tōraṇa of the main entrance to the Taleju Bhawani temple, Bhaktapur, Nepal.

Goddess Taleju Bhawani became the patron deity of Newari Hindus in the valley. The goddess was brought to the Kathmandu Valley in the 14th century by King Harisiṃha Deva, a Karṇāṭa king of Tirhut, who was driven out of his kingdom in 1325 by Muslim armies. Harisiṃha installed Goddess Taleju, who became the house-goddess of the Malla royal family, as evidenced by two Sanskrit texts, Talejvāgama and Tulyāgama, which are the property of the Rājopādhyāyas of Bhaktapur and Patan. She remained the tutelary deity for the Malla Kings in all three kingdoms of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur and her temple…

The conversion of Heliodoros to Vaiṣṇavism

Conversion of Greek Heliodoros to the Hindu religion of Vaiṣṇavism; painting by Asit Kumar Haldar

This painting by Asit Kumar Haldar is the carefully detailed rendition of a historical scene from the 2nd century BC. As indicated by the title, it depicts the ceremony of the religious conversion of Heliodoros, an Indo-Greek ambassador, to Vaiṣṇavism. Sent to the central Indian city of Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh by Antialcidas, the King of Taxilā, it is believed that Heliodoros, like others before and after him, was enamored by India; “from the epigraphic records in the Karle, Nasik and Junnar caves and also from various inscriptions, it is known that .. the Greeks, Sakas, Pahlvas “succumbed to the…

A rare 16-armed dancing Ardhanārīśvara, with the right foot on Śiva’s vāhana, Nandi, and the left foot on Parvati’s vāhana, the lion. Siva wears a garland of skulls and holds the thunderbolt sceptre (vajra), kartika, and a kapāla.The lotus petal base suggests that it once served as the top of a ceremonial staff. Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore

Ardhanārīśvara is the form of Śiva in which the God with his spouse appears in a composite from. The right half is dedicated to Śiva and the left to his Śakti, Pārvati. Both halves are adorned with the features, jewelry, and clothing of male and female respectively. According to the Śiva Purāṇa, Brahmā could only create first the Prajāpatis and Felt concerned at the slow progress of creation and therefore contemplated on Maheśvara who appeared in the form of Ardhanārīśvara. Brahmā then prayed to Dēvi Pārvati to create a female in order to perpetuate humanity thereafter. That the male and…

William Simpson’s ‘India: Ancient and Modern’. Holy men seated under trees, often a banyan tree as depicted in the painting, were a regular sight in India. Simpson wrote of this portrait: “Many were dirty ascetics, but this was a clean, handsome old man, with a gentle countenance and the most courteous manners. His name was Gopal Dass, and he was a disciple of Seeta. His utensils for his simple wants: the gourd for water, a brass dish for food, his pipe with a bit of cloth at the end of it, tongs to lift the embers to light it with, and a conch shell he sounds when he enters the temple.”

Śri Kṛṣṇa in the Bhagavadgītā says:
अश्वत्थ: सर्ववृक्षाणां देवर्षीणां च नारद: | 10.26

“Of the trees I am the aśvattha (peepal, or the sacred fig tree); of the celestial sages I am Nārada..”

Hindu sages have long employed the paradox of the ficus seed in a parable, used to represent the imperceptible power within a banyan seed as a parallel to ātman, the invisible yet ubiquitous essence that permeates and sustains all living beings and the universe. Vedic doctrine says that “Just as the tiny, insignificant seed grows into a gigantic pīpal tree, this infinite universe has emerged from a…

Shiva in his fierce form of Bhairava; Karnataka, c. 1300–1500, clorite schist; The reddish soil in the recesses would seem to suggest that the sculpture was once buried.

From the Śiva Purāna:

Śiva said: —
“O Kālabhairava, at the outset this lotus-born Brahmā shall be chastised by you. You shine like god of death, hence you are Kālarāja.
You are called Bhairava because you are of terrifying features and you are capable of supporting the universe. Since even Kāla is afraid of you, you are called Kālabhairava.
When you are angry you will be suppressing wicked souls. Hence you will be known everywhere as the suppressor of the wicked.
Since you will be devouring the sins of devotees in a trice your name will be famous as sin-eater.
O Kālarāja, you will…

Hindu Aesthetic

Curating Hindu art and knowledge - a testament to the glorious culture and heritage of a resilient civilisation.

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