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Historians of Asia on Political Violence

 | 
Anne Cheng
, 
Sanchit Kumar

Discourse on a label: exposing narratives of violence

Naman P. Ahuja

Entrées d'index

Texte intégral

1Provenance studies have emerged as one of the most important disciplinary aspects of art history which is directly concerned with politics and seek to redress histories of political violence. Contained in the narratives that emerge when we study the provenance of objects are a variety of significant contexts; for instance, in our world of migrations, a pertinent one worth examining is the circumstances under which the owner of an object fled with the object now displayed in a museum. Was it an object of faith, a memento or a much-needed financial asset? And then of course there are the many complex debates linked to questions around repatriation as a means to redress the political violence of the past. Each context makes us judge its current ownership differently. Other questions also emerge: in repatriation claims does war booty belong to the usurper or the vanquished? How far back in time can we go with provenance and what is the right thing to do once we know the history: bringing cases of historical wrongs of four or five generations back is one matter, but can things that were done twenty or more generations ago still be brought to a court today? After all, at some point, the deracinated or uprooted also becomes naturalised; it lives on in a new context. The responsibility for the maintenance of the site and material artefact has often been undertaken by a community different from the one who lost it, and that maintenance may be taking place now in a manner that is perhaps differently from how it was originally conceived. Can we be so impervious to change that that new home and context can be disregarded? What does depriving current owners of an object achieve –does it actually bring a museum visiting, conservation and museum maintaining habit to the country to which the object has been repatriated? None of these questions can be answered without acknowledging the role propaganda and perception play. In this essay, we examine one field of disinformation (or at least misinformation) that remains unaddressed when viewing antique sculptures in public museums in India.

2In the past few years, demands for restitution or repatriation have started intensifying because of the delay in admitting a narrative of decolonisation in western museums. In 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement brought long-standing histories of racial and colonial violence into sharper focus with the destruction of public statuary in some places, and even the creation of new statues to replace those where colonisers once stood. If provenance histories of many objects and the biographies of the collectors had been openly exposed for a few decades, perhaps the honest rationale for the western museum to continue to act as custodians of objects that told complex histories may have been justified. Now, however, in an age of hyper-nationalism a parallel question arises about what is driving the desire for repatriation in countries like India: whose benefit is the narrative or propaganda of restitution serving now? The narrative accompanying Indian sculptures is one of the restitution of a sacred object to the country to which it once belonged, even if that object is now no longer capable of being brought back into worship. In times when religion is being used to bolster nationalism, the return of historical artefacts serves a very different propaganda rather than communicate the many other, diverse histories.

3Repatriation can bolster India’s national pride today, as a reaction to how the possession of objects from diverse parts of the world once encouraged colonial pride and empire building in Europe and Britain. Some have argued that in the UK, public institutions and school curricula could have done more to stem the rising national chauvinism in the past two decades, much of which has been associated with a nostalgia for the empire. Large proportions of the citizens of the West have roots in countries that were formerly colonised, whose histories of how they came to be uprooted, or why the objects of their previous countries are now in European countries are seldom told in public institutions. The delay in a decolonising narrative has cost western institutions by alienating their public. The decolonisation narrative is thus not just for India’s benefit anymore, but one that the US, Britain and European countries need for maintaining their own cosmopolitanism.

4In India, decolonisation may have been an issue that was important from the 1930s until the 1970s for righting colonial wrongs, but there are now many other, more pressing matters that affect Indian art in terms of what markets and museums need by understanding better what museums can enable, and how they need to be protected. Colonial wrongs and inequities may remain, but issues around violence perpetrated on the basis of caste, religion or gender, climate and biodiversity, individual rights and the right to knowledge and the freedom to speak are pressing concerns in India that cannot be addressed only through a narrative of decolonisation or repatriation.

  • 1 Weil, Stephen E., Rethinking the Museum and other Meditations, Washington and London: Smithsonian I (...)
  • 2 A synoptic version of this article was published as Ahuja, Naman P. “Conflict: Can Museums Tell Us (...)

5My focus is to reveal the many types of political violence communicated by ancient and medieval Indian sculptures. Objects in Indian museum collections raise questions and the museum has a role and a responsibility to play in articulating the many narratives that these questions provoke. For all the intentions that exist on paper on the interpretative role museum displays can play in fulfilling their mandate of contributing to the development of a responsible, even enlightened public,1 few Indian museum curators have demonstrated their capacity to exhibit this in the permanent displays of Indian history, except to use them, largely, as tools for telling a history of religion or metaphysical ideas. There are several reasons for taking the museum from being storehouses of objects to communicators of ideas and diverse, or even divergent, histories.2

6The first part of this essay examines how telling stories of political violence in the public sphere has a long history in Indian culture; so much so that it was debated as to how artfully it should be done and what aesthetic effect it should lead to. Having established that this spirit of communication is part of a long-standing Indian tradition, the second part of the paper looks at some case studies of how museums, which are the aesthetic communicators of history and cultural identity nowadays, can perform this role in the Indian public sphere. In the last part of this paper, it is necessary, then, to conclude with a few observations on what cautions need to be employed to safeguard such a space and, equally, what limits may be advisable on our expectations of what museums can achieve.

I. Toward an aesthetic rationale

  • 3 In India, two relatively recent museums have been created on these lines: the Partition Museum in A (...)

7Will the telling of a historical narrative of many sides of a conflict be seen as moving away from the aesthetic function of a museum space? That aesthetic pleasure is only possible in avoiding any exposure of conflict was certainly not the view of ancient Indian aestheticians, and nor is it the view of those who work on the aesthetics of theatre and performance art today. Besides, even with collections of contemporary art and anthropology, “transitional justice” and “memorialisation” are the new terms by which the public role of contemporary museums is enhanced nowadays3 which rely on making the history of political conflict explicit. A history of conflicts of old, which have gone to shape identity politics in India, will inevitably also have to be told.

  • 4 Choudhury, Pravas Jivan, “Catharsis in the Light of Indian Aesthetics”, The Journal of Aesthetics a (...)

8It is well known that Aristotle’s interpretation of the aesthetic effect of rousing tragedy and violence in art/theatre allows for a therapeutic purging of these emotions from the audience; a question has equally been asked if Indian aesthetics gives a similar role of catharsis to Indian art. The short answer to that is yes.4 It has been thought about at some length by the 9th century scholar of aesthetics, Ānandavardhana, when he considered the public use of narrating the gory tales of bloodshed in the Mahābhārata. As we shall see, he argued that these violent tales ultimately lead the audience to experience śānta-rasa, a feeling of peace and equanimity.

  • 5 Tripathi, Radhavallabh, Vāda in Theory and Practice: Studies in Debates, Dialogues and Discussions (...)

9From an early period in its history, India’s philosophers honed their skill in argumentation and participated in court-sanctioned public debates. Entire schools of thought were created and developed by vigorous clashes of opinion. The tradition of publicly voicing dissent in philosophical debate has a long history, and the first codification of the rules of debate is in the Nyāya sutras. Debate was so important that manuals were written by many schools of philosophy to codify the rules of argument. The 5th century Vādavidhi (A Method for Argumentation) of Vasubandhu, and the 7th century manual of Dharmakīrti, the Vādanyāya (Reasoning for Debate), attest to the importance of public debate or vāda. The expression of divergent opinions was considered a necessary step in the determination of truth.5

  • 6 Tubb, Gary A. “Śāntarasa in the Mahābhārata”, Journal of South Asian Literature, Vol. 20, No. 1 (...)

10Returning to Ānandavardhana, the great aesthetician of the 9th century: he elaborates in the Dhvanyāloka on the constituents required for communicating śānta-rasa. Surprisingly, he took the Mahābhārata as his example. At first glance one would imagine that given the focus on heroism and even gratuitous nature of the violence in that text, hearing the story would render the audience violent and heroic, or as a consequence, perhaps compassionate at the sight of so much pain, but to claim that they are left śānta, or peaceful, is rather curious. Gary Tubb explains how Ānandavardhana built his argument on the Mahābhārata, noting that the repeated performances and re-telling of blood-soaked battle after battle caused by lust, ego, greed and avarice all, eventually, helped lead the audience to śānta-rasa.6 Exposing the vanity of struggle, Ānandavardhana argued, leads to the removal of craving of ego and lust for power, and renders the heroism of battle (vīra-rasa) into a reminder of the hollowness of victory before the eventuality of death. “The more the insubstantial workings of this world are seen to turn out badly, the more a feeling of dispassion is produced.” [Mahābhārata 12.168.4]

  • 7 McCrea, Lawrence, “Śāntarasa in the Rājatarangiṇī: History, epic, and moral decay”, Indian Eco (...)

11This reading of the Mahābhārata finds a parallel in the writings of the historian Kalhana, the author of the 12th century Rājataranginī, the history of Kashmir. Kalhana makes a similar claim for his work, saying his selection of episodes to put down in his history also imparts śānta-rasa to his readers.7 Since generations of writers have agreed that itihāsa (history), the category to which both the Mahābhārata and the Rājatarangin belong as a genre, can claim to be producers of experiences that are aesthetic, this role of the history museum is not one that would be antithetical to the Indian tradition.

  • 8 Hegarty, James, Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination in South Asia: Past and Place in the San (...)

12Applying the lessons of Ānandavardhana and Kalhana to museums today, it is clear that telling history in a museum need not detract from aesthetic experience. A museum of historical artefacts, with its encyclopaedic range of objects made for and used by different people, and used for different purposes, in different epochs, enables the telling of rich narratives. As another scholar of the Mahābhārata , James Hegarty has suggested, “Within public imagination, narrative is […] the chief means of evoking counter-factual situations –be they of past, present or future (or even wholly fictive).”8

  • 9 On the controversy around Indian history textbooks, see Communalisation of Education: The History T (...)

13One is making a case to bring not opinions, but research-based tellings of history [back] into museum spaces. Hiding from this responsibility has left the field open to hijack the civic discourse, construed by propagandists in service of an ideology, justifying pogroms. Misinformation runs rife, and the effort to polarise society succeeds, creating new collective memories, without sufficient opportunity for the presentation of a corrective. However, in countries where history textbooks can be meddled with frequently,9 what then will offer safeguards and correctives? I do not profess to come up with a mechanism to stem “fake-news”, but certainly, institutions that have the opportunity to tell those histories can no longer abrogate their role to do so.

  • 10 In 2019, media attention was being given to the creation of a museum of oral histories on both side (...)

14Ideology and perceived historical identity shape contemporary politics, and as museums are preservers of the evidence of history, how they perform their public function of communicating histories that go into shaping identity and ideology is increasingly important. The museums of modern and contemporary art have shown beyond doubt that the consumption of politically relevant discourses is aesthetically done, and done quite commonly, in fact.10 This seldom extends to museums of antiquities. Antiquities hold a more potent aura: hallowed images of gods are more visible, even more stable markers of peoples’ identities. Is there a way to use these very artefacts to provoke difficult questions on how war and violence were condoned in society, reveal the terms dictated by those in power to forge social compliance or equally, the means achieved by those at the margins to protect their culture? Can we not interpret the evidence for the suppression of women, which often enough also demonstrates a conflict over the affiliation of religious shrines? When these narratives are observed in gallery after gallery, some interesting patterns begin to emerge about how the language of visual culture was used to perpetuate violence and fear. The patterns reveal that there were established ways of making that violence visible, and the same methods were used to create new public enemies in each age. This visual lexicon of violence is as much a part of the aesthetics of communication as other emotive powers of art.

15In the next part of this essay we will study some examples that were either made in order to normalise political violence in society, or have ended up having that effect. Deliberately mutilated sculptures, similar to those so amply seen at archaeological sites and in museums across India, reveal the requirement to make public statements about conflict and victory of course, but they reveal many other things too which we are not told about: how the conflict was not only one between the usually imagined upholders of iconoclastic Islam on the one side and myriad others on the other side, but sometimes between different Hindus or in contexts where there were no Muslims involved, driven at times not by conflict at all, but by the re-use of old stones on account of economic necessity.

II. Art historical evidence complicates the public imagination on conflict

16Art history can look upon its facts to construct many rich narratives of history. And although the facts that accompany broken statuary may be few, and although broken statues themselves may not be as many as pristine ones –they still do require explanation. For hundreds of years these statues have, after all, communicated both things to us: who or what they once were, and what fate they met. The decapitations, fractures and injuries suffered by public statues also brand themselves onto our memories and when shown broken, unmended for centuries, the breakage becomes a statement that is either normalised –which is a very frightening case in most violent societies, or –a wound that serves to caution public memory. These are powerful breakages capable of being aesthetically communicated, performing their role that is vivid and yet also practical.

17The vitriolic tone against historians who sought to write more reasoned arguments explaining why a richer context is needed to explain the desecration of temples comes from the lack of upholding a space for scholarly debate. It is fuelled by an urgency in acknowledging in public spaces the history of “Islamic iconoclasm” in the first place, before a revision of it can be offered. The revisions are, needless to say, far better argued and researched and they have, as a result, only riled their opposition to greater emotive outbursts. A more reasoned manner of presenting the material would be to start, first, by allowing those so keen to prove that indeed, historic buildings and images do bear testimony to a strong history of violence perpetrated in India in the name of Islam. This then can be contextualised against other acts of violence perpetrated by other kingdoms. It can also be shown against other narratives of political violence which may have less to do with religious conflict than they do with matters of caste, gender, sexuality, immigration, language, and so on.

II.a. Disturb the peace

  • 11 References to the attacks against Jains may be found across the 13th century Lingayat Vīra-śaiva (...)

18Several Jain sculptures in the Bhubaneshwar Museum (Orissa) including a Mahāvīra [Fig. 1], Ajītnātha [Fig. 2] and Śāntinātha [Fig. 3] are often mistaken by the public as images of starving Buddhas. Close inspection reveals that what have emerged as rib-like protrusions on their torsos are in fact irregular grooves created subsequent to the carving of the statues. Ironically, where Jain images exemplify ahiṁsā, non-violence, the torsos of these Jain seers appear to have been used to grind tools and probably even sharpen knives. Violence against Jains in the region is known to have been perpetrated by Hindus,11 and there is equally a history of the occupation of the region by a Muslim population. Figuring out the causes of violence apart, there are questions to be asked about who abandoned these images and who appropriated them?

Fig. 1. Mahavira

Fig. 1. Mahavira

c. 9th–10th century. Bhadrak, Odisha State Museum, Bhubaneshwar (Acc. No. 22)

Naman P. Ahuja

Fig. 2. Ajitnatha, 2nd Tirthankara

Fig. 2. Ajitnatha, 2nd Tirthankara

c. 9th–10th century AD. Charampa, Bhadrak, Odisha. Odisha State Museum, Bhubaneshwar (Acc. No. 21)

Naman P. Ahuja

Fig. 2 detail

Fig. 2 detail

Naman P. Ahuja

Fig. 3. Shantinatha, 16th Tirthankara

Fig. 3. Shantinatha, 16th Tirthankara

c. 9th-10th century AD. Charampa, Bhadrak, Odisha. Odisha State Museum, Bhubaneshwar (Acc. No. 19)

Naman P. Ahuja

Fig. 3 detail

Fig. 3 detail

Naman P. Ahuja

19The labels in the museum are anodyne. They do not inform the public about anything, except their iconography, find-spot and date. The strange grinding on the sculptures in the museum, is also to be found at others still lying in the Charampa and Barala Pokhari villages of Bhadrak district as well as within Bhadrak town. [Figs. 4 – 6] Some of these sculptures were retrieved from the river and turned into the focus of either temporary shrines or new concrete temples. The priests who belong to the region still pray at one of two temples by the river which are functional and modern spaces. The really active of the two temples does not contain such mutilated old (or previously abandoned) idols. Elsewhere in the village however, comparable sculptures that were once abandoned have been brought back into worship in new shrines and it turned out that the most significant of the abandoned old idols was stolen from the site three years ago. One family in the village complained rather movingly about their loss. They turned out to be a relatively recent family in the region that had migrated from Bengal, who had fashioned themselves as priests in Orissa and had taken in their care a forgotten sculpture and turned their premises into a living temple. Their emotional testimony of its loss was ripe for a journalistic investigation of the loss of a community’s god at the hands of an unscrupulous group of antique hunters. Behind that, however, lay a more complicated story about the claim of their ownership if the sculptures were ever to be retrieved. What was emerging here was a narrative of how spolia long abandoned at a site were being gathered by some people who appeared to be recent immigrants seeking a cultural foothold by their claim to be the upholders of tradition and culture that the residents themselves had forsaken. As one investigated further, it transpired that this very spolia had been appropriated previously as well.

Fig. 4. Chamunda

Fig. 4. Chamunda

Stone. Bhadrak, Orissa. Probably 8th-9th century

Naman P. Ahuja

Fig. 5. Surya

Fig. 5. Surya

Stone. Bhadrak, Orissa. Probably 9th-10th century

Naman P. Ahuja

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

The river Salandi that flows through Bhadrak, from where several of the damaged statues have been retrieved and collected either for the museum or placed in new shrines.

Naman P. Ahuja

  • 12 Indian rules of deconsecration and what to do with spolia vary depending on which Śaivāgama or Va (...)
  • 13 Discarding in water is as per ritual injunction, see ibid.
  • 14 It is well-known that graves in churchyards and even the walls of several churches in the British I (...)

20It is clear that a variety of Jain and Śākta (goddess) statues dateable, approximately, to the 8th to 10th centuries were once removed from worship in this region. They were not high quality exceptional carvings to begin with, but of course that is not an indicator of their sacrality. No causative agent for the despoliation is known to us today, but as is often the case, when sculptures are relieved of their ritual function, they are either ritually buried, or immersed in water. Temples let go of old sculptures if they are desecrated, broken or if they become polluted if a lower-caste person comes near them, or if the temple receives a new one at a festival or from an important donor –a new political head, for instance.12 The material fits with the idea of loss of sacred status and the use of the stone for another purpose. 13The question that arises with an examination of the sculptures at Bhadrak, however, is what happened to them after they were abandoned, why do so many of them bear marks of grinding over their finished surfaces? A statue of Chamunda [Fig. 4] and another of Surya [Fig. 5] that have recently been brought back into worship at the site also bear the same type of grinding on their surfaces and it became clear that the grinding is not just of Jain statues but “Hindu” ones too. A question also arises when the ritual discarding into the river would have taken place, and how long after its deposition in the river would such valuable stones have been reutilised for grinding? [Fig. 6] The curving nature of the grooves indicates that something circular has been used to make those impressions. It would not have been sickles as they are sharp on their inner curvature, but it could have been chopping axes, arrows or swords perhaps. It is ironic that the bodies of sculptures were used in this way, but this is far from the only instance when sacred material has been used for such purposes.14 Were they driven by economic necessity, reusing the stones to grind tools? Were no other stones available? The point here is that by raising several possible narratives: of economic necessity, of ritual discarding, of iconoclasm and the opportunistic reappropriation of the sculptures, the labels in the museum would raise significant and necessary questions for the public, rather than leave the field open to a singular, unsaid assumption of Islamic iconoclasm.

II.b. Narratives of assimilation, renovation and destruction

  • 15 Fergusson, James. Tree and Serpent Worship, London: India Museum, 1868; Coomaraswamy, A.K., Yakṣas, (...)
  • 16 Eschmann, A., H. Kulke and G.C. Tripathi, The Cult of Jagannath and the Regional Tradition of Oriss (...)

21James Fergusson and Ananda Coomaraswamy both laid the foundations for studies on how the imagery of pre-existing cults of yakshas, tree and serpent worshippers were demonised and either rejected, and when that was not possible, incorporated into Buddhism.15 The terms of incorporation were stipulated by stories of the cult figure being blessed by the greater force of the Buddha. Then, for decades, histories referenced the process of Sanskritisation, by which autochthonous cultures of India were brought into a Brahmanical fold.16 Chastisement of some turned them into demons (Mahiśāsura, the nāgas and others at the hands of Krishna; Rāvana) while others were co-opted as spouses, avatars and emanations of a Brahmanical divine figure (Mīnākṣī, Jagannātha, or the tendency to give many epithets or names that derive from diverse communities or regions to the same figure, for instance).

  • 17 Freedberg, David, “The Structure of Byzantine and European Iconoclasm”, in Bryer, Anthony and Judit (...)
  • 18 Eaton, Richard M. has a widely reproduced study on this issue: “Temple Desecration and Indo‑Muslim (...)

22Iconoclasm as a phenomenon extends well beyond the shores of India, and research in South Asia has amply shown how Muslim iconoclasm in the region needs to be contextualised within the long narratives of political conflict in which temples, Mauryan pillars, and sacred sculptures have been repeatedly targeted.17 There are too many examples that reveal the theft of temple icons by one Hindu king from the lands of another between the 7th and 11th century in a bid to show how the power of one kingdom was usurped by another. However, Richard M. Eaton18 provides a series of examples of internecine warfare amongst various Hindu kings that also saw the desecration of Hindu temples, apart from the looting of each other’s images; two paragraphs of Eaton alone provide an all too important and succinct list that is worth quoting:

In 642 AD, according to local tradition, the Pallava king Narasimhavarman I looted the image of Ganesha from the Chalukyan capital of Vatapi. Fifty years later armies of those same Chalukyas invaded north India and brought back to the Deccan what appear to be images of Ganga and Yamuna, looted from defeated powers there. In the eighth century Bengali troops sought revenge on king Lalitaditya by destroying what they thought was the image of Vishnu Vaikuntha, the state-deity of Lalitaditya’s kingdom in Kashmir.

In the early ninth century, Rashtrakuta king Govinda III invaded and occupied Kanchipuram, which so intimidated the king of Sri Lanka that he sent Govinda several (probably Buddhist) images that represented the Sinhala state, and which the Rashtrakuta king then installed in a Saiva temple in his capital. About the same time, the Pandyan king Srimara Srivallabha also invaded Sri Lanka and took back to his capital a golden Buddha image that had been installed in the kingdom’s Jewel Palace. In the early tenth century, the Pratihara king Herambapala seized a solid gold image of Vishnu Vaikuntha when he defeated the Sahi king of Kangra. By the mid-tenth century, the same image was seized from the Pratiharas by the Candella king Yasovarman and installed in the Lakshmana temple of Khajuraho.

23He continues,

  • 19 Eaton, 2000, pp. 65-66. See the previous study: Davis, Richard, “Indian Art Objects as Loot”, Journ (...)

Although the dominant pattern here was one of looting royal temples and carrying off images of state-deities, we also hear of Hindu kings engaging in the destruction of the royal temples of their political adversaries. In the early tenth century, the Rashtrakuta monarch Indra III not only destroyed the temple of Kalapriya (at Kalpa near the Yamuna river), patronised by the Rashtrakutas’ deadly enemies, the Pratiharas, but also took special delight in recording the fact.19

  • 20 Spencer, George W., “The Politics of Plunder: The Cholas in Eleventh-Century Ceylon”, Journal of As (...)
  • 21 Flood, F.B., studies Islamic proscriptions on idol worship and reassesses the question of Islam’s “ (...)

24The narrative that Hindu kings stole each other’s idols has not been told enough in the public arena. Returning to Kashmir, Kalhana wrote the Rājatarangin in AD 1148-49 in which he details how Hindu kings of Kashmir, like Harshadeva, destroyed the temples of other Hindu and Buddhist kings. Harshadeva even created a post of a devotpātana nāyaka for the job. Another well-known example is of the conflicts in South India between Śaivas and Vaiṣṇavas. The disparaging attitude by Hindu kings in South India towards Jains, and even the destruction of Buddhist sites by Hindus are also documented aplenty.20 And the exaggeration and even falsehood of the usual claim that broken idols in India are largely a result of Islamic invasions has been exposed by several scholars.21 Further, time and again, it has been shown that the practice was not limited to Muslim or Hindu kings alone.

  • 22 On the contested history of Bodh Gaya, see Asher, Frederick, Bodh Gaya, Delhi: Oxford University Pr (...)
  • 23 Jīrṇoddhāra, reviving or rescuing what exists in a state of ruin, remains an under-researched te (...)

25Mauryan pillars make for a valuable case-study. [Fig. 7] Several scholars have remarked that the Buddhist Ashoka may have perpetrated extreme political violence himself and, centuries later, Ashokan pillars were later broken and reshaped at different places by different people. For instance, we do not know when the one now at the fort in Allahabad was originally brought there, although it is generally thought that it must have been brought from Kaushambi. It was inscribed on by many over the millennia: first by the Mauryas, then by the Guptas, followed by the Mughal Jahangir who even gave it a new capital. Portions of the column found in Varanasi could have been destroyed by many different people, at different times, for different reasons. What function did it serve in Varanasi in the first place, when the major Buddhist site is nearby at Sarnath? Was the pillar brought to Varanasi from elsewhere, just as other Mauryan pillars were shifted about in medieval times? Judging the fate of the other pillars gives no clear answers: the one in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa, became a Śiva-linga, the one in Sugh in Haryana became a victory pillar in Delhi’s Firoz Shah Kotla, the one at Hisar was commandeered by the Tughlaqs and reinscribed in Fārsi, while the capital of the one at Bodh Gaya was never found. The temple at Bodh Gaya was, after all, burnt down, demolished and rebuilt several times.22 The pillar could have been razed to the ground by a rival group of Buddhists or Hindus and if any remnants were there over a millennium later, perhaps they were subject to further changes by armies that were Muslim. Sometimes the pillars were repaired or copied, in a way to be able to invoke their political or religious symbolism in subsequent ages. Both renovation and copying are important approaches to history as they help us understand how ancient and medieval Indians themselves valued historical artefacts, what they thought of jīrṇoddhāra or repair/conservation.23 The site museums and interpretation centres at these places can therefore very justifiably start telling a richer discourse, a more layered history, but this has much wider implications for the very construction of the historiography of Indian attitudes towards what we today call “museumisation”.

Fig. 7

Fig. 7

The Mauryan pillar relocated to the Allahabad Fort was originally inscribed during the reign of Ashoka, appropriated and re-inscribed in the time of the Guptas, and then again, reappropriated and re-inscribed in the time of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir.

Naman P. Ahuja

Fig. 7 detail

Fig. 7 detail

Naman P. Ahuja

II.c. Giving iconoclasm a context

  • 24 The figures reported by the Ministry of Culture to the Parliament on the number of visitors to the (...)
  • 25 The publication about the Qutub complex which is sold at the official ASI shop at the site is incen (...)
  • 26 Images of the sculptures retrieved online on 20 December 2019 at: http://museumsofindia.gov.in/repo (...)

26By contrast let us look at examples of how a history of conflict has been declared at one of the most contentious sites in India, the Qutub Minar. Visits from tourists, Indian and international, keep the numbers at the site at amongst the highest in the world.24 The presence of pillars from older Hindu temples is often spoken about at the site; the presence of spolia from Jain and/or Hindu temples is evident to the public and the discourse on the site has kept alive the narrative of destruction. However, the tone of the writing adopted by the state’s own publications is incendiary,25 and opportunities to tell a more informed history, long available through reliable publications, remain staved off. Unavailable also to the visitor is a translation of the richness of the inscriptions at the site which are a clear statement of imperial power that can be read alongside fascinating insights that can be gleaned from the inscriptions of the Hindu craftsmen who worked at the site. Further, two sculptures,26 retrieved from the vicinity of the Qutub Minar itself, are kept at the much less-visited National Museum in Delhi and are not presently talked about in the general public discourse at all. One is a red-sandstone vertical strut of a vedika [Fig. 8] which is exactly of the type found around the ancient stupas of pre-Kushan Mathura, broadly, and generally dated to the 1st century BC. These vedika pillars came mostly from Buddhist sites, very rarely from Jain ones and it has been argued on the basis of depictions on some sculptural reliefs that they may have also surrounded lingas at the base of tree-shrines. Given that prominent Jain temples still survive in this region (such as the one at Dadabari), it can be argued that the beautiful yakshi on this vedika pillar once surrounded an ancient Jain shrine. Nothing else is yet reported to have survived from that ancient stupa in Delhi.

Fig. 8. Fragment of a railing pillar showing a shalabhanjika

Fig. 8. Fragment of a railing pillar showing a shalabhanjika

Buff sandstone. C. 2nd-1st century BC. Qutub Minar, Mehrauli, Delhi. 77.5 x 25.5 cm. National Museum, Delhi (59.539)

National Museum, Delhi

  • 27 The discovery was reported by the Archaeological Survey of India, see Ghosh, Amalananda, ed., India (...)
  • 28 Asher, Catherine, Delhi’s Qutb Complex: The Minar, Mosque and Mehrauli, Mumbai: The Marg Foundation (...)
  • 29 Eaton, Richard M., “Temple desecration and Indo-Muslim States”, in Gilmartin, D. and B.B. Lawrence, (...)

27The second sculpture [Fig. 9] found southeast of the Qutub Minat is of Viṣṇu and is dated by its inscription to 1147, of Chauhan (Cāhamāna)/Gāhadvāla rule, i.e. four decades before the creation of the Minar and the despoliation of Hindu temples to build the mosque.27 For all the rhetoric on destruction and defacement at the site, it stands perfectly intact, extraordinarily well-preserved. It helps understand that what was broken was not actually to reflect a destruction of someone else’s faith but an appropriation. It confirms what scholars have been saying about the very selective defacement that was undertaken at the site so that only what was inside the mosque did not carry anthropomorphic imagery, but what was outside its boundary, was probably left alone. Just as Dadabari is an ancient Jain site of Mehrauli, the Yogmāyā temple in Mehrauli continues to serve a Hindu public, and is an example that reveals the continuing patronage of Hindus in the area immediately after the construction of the Minar.28 This fits so much better within our researches on the opportunistic politics behind the vandalism of temples and the use of their wealth for political expediency rather than being guided by religious zeal. In fact, they all become examples of showing how religion became instrumentalised for the sake of political gain. What can be more necessary than the display or vocalisation of that corrective in the narrative these days?29

Fig. 9. Vishnu

Fig. 9. Vishnu

Found southeast of the Qutub Minar. Dated 1147, during the period of Chauhan/Gahadavala rule. H: 105 cm. National Museum, New Delhi (L39)

AIIS

Fig. 9 detail

Fig. 9 detail

AIIS

28The examples that can be cited are many, and if done consistently, the art-historical interpretations of despoliation and reuse can be greatly enriched. Then, a longue durée narrative emerges, revealing patterns of economic necessity and the propagandist use to which visual culture is put through the vicissitudes of history. After the 2017 refurbishment of the Hotung Gallery at the British Museum, a changed label accompanies a double-sided stone artefact in its South Asia galleries. [Fig. 10a & 10b] Their label now reads: “The Buddha and the Mihrāb: one side of the panel shows the Buddha flanked by Bodhisattvas. The figures have been damaged. The other shows an Islamic mihrāb surrounded by floral scrolls, indicating the direction of Mecca and therefore the direction for prayer. The sculpture of the Buddha was made in the AD 900s. The back of the stone slab was carved as a mihrāb in the 1400s, when the Bengal Sultanate was in power. The re-use in mosques of architectural elements of Hindu and Buddhist sites is politically charged, and also shows creative adaptation. Traditional Indian motifs, such as lotuses and vegetal scrolls have been used to decorate the mihrāb indicating that these designs still had a desirable sacred function.”

Fig. 10a. A panel with a carved Buddha and a mihrab on the reverse

Fig. 10a. A panel with a carved Buddha and a mihrab on the reverse

Black basalt. Obverse: Eastern India, Pala period, c. 10th century. Reverse: Gaur, West Bengal, c. 15th century. H: 84.1 cm. British Museum (1880.145)

The British Museum

Fig. 10b. A panel with a carved Buddha and a mihrab on the reverse

Fig. 10b. A panel with a carved Buddha and a mihrab on the reverse

Black basalt. Obverse: Eastern India, Pala period, c. 10th century. Reverse: Gaur, West Bengal, c. 15th century. H: 84.1 cm. British Museum (1880.145)

The British Museum

29Such a frank display of facts is rarely encountered in an Indian museum. This is despite the fact that many an example can be used to tell such a history in Indian collections to great effect. A rare example of a rich context, with a label and audio guide to explain such reuse and violence, is on show at the ASI’s museum in the compound of the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa, a case-study to which we now turn.

II.d. Iconography that normalises violence

30At the ASI museum linked to Bom Jesus in Goa lies a dramatic statue of Vetal, an attendant to Śiva, which was a well-known village deity in the Konkan region around Goa. [Fig. 11] (The type harks back to the many images of Bhairava and ferocious dvārapālas, which are found at Śiva temples across India.) The ASI’s label text informs us that trucks and buses plying the roads in Goa are inscribed:

  • 30 The museum’s text amplifies this with literary references: “We find references to the Vetal in the (...)

Shri Sateri Vetal Prassanna, Shri Paikdev Prassanna… These reflect a tradition of worship of the ghost deity, popularly known as Vetal or Betal, which is very popular in the coastal districts of the western coast or the Malabar coast. It is a folk deity and enjoys the position of a village deity (gramdevata) in the coastal region. The well-known historian of Goa, Dr. D.D. Kosambi, described Vetal as the prince of ghosts and also a God… It remained a deity of the common people throughout the ages, hence it is not mentioned in any royal inscriptions of the kings.30

Fig. 11. Vetal

Fig. 11. Vetal

Basalt stone. Betalbatim, South Goa. Probably 7th-12th centuries. ASI Museum, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa

Naman P. Ahuja

Fig. 11 detail

Fig. 11 detail

Naman P. Ahuja

31The text continues to explain…

In order to appease the deity, fowl, goats, and even buffaloes were offered as sacrifice in addition to liquor. The food of Vetal is considered as mostly meat and liquor. This practice of offering animals as sacrifice is now out of vogue due to rationalisation. …According to Dr. V.R. Mitragotri, a Goan historian, the rise of the Kapalikas and Pashupatas, who believed in Tantric practices, provided favourable conditions for the evolution of Vetal worship. The inscriptions of the Chalukya dynasty of Badami in Karnataka point to the presence of the Kapalikas in the Deccan plateau. The inscriptions of the Silahara dynasty indicate the presence of Pashupatas in the south Konkan region. Both these sects believed in Tantric practices which were meant for the acquisition of siddhis (supernatural powers) by which one would possess the power to get whatever one desired. So it can be inferred that such practices were in vogue at the Vetal shrines around 6th century CE.

32And a paragraph later, lest the visitor is left imagining that the Hindu practices were all blood curdlingly occult, we are told that Vetal is also a guardian deity:

Vetal is considered as the king of spirits, a village deity and not an evil spirit. He bestows blessings. It enters into the body and drives away evil spirits. Vetal always leads a procession of other ghosts and spirits. According to Hindu mythology, Vetals were in the army of the goddess Chamunda when she annihilated Chanda and Munda, the demons. Since Vetal is the guardian deity of the village, it is believed that he goes around in the surrounding villages throughout the night on foot (Paikadev). Hence people offer pairs of sandals to the deity. It is said that when some devotees, mostly peasants and fishermen, have dreams in which Vetal appears… a sacrifice is made and rituals are performed to escape any misfortune that may befall them.

33A richer context is provided with references to Bhoota Aradhana:

The practice of “Bhuta Aradhana”, the worship of the Bhutas (ghosts) in the coastal districts of South Karnataka could be similar to the worship of Vetal in the Goa region. Finely carved wooden images of these bhutas from the South Canara district of Karnataka, are displayed in the National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum (Crafts Museum), Delhi.

34And finally, the ASI museum comes to the specific context of this particular statue:

The displayed basalt stone image of Vetal is collected from the Betalbatim South Goa. …Rope marks can be seen on his left side as until it was discovered, this particular stone was being used as a platform to draw water from the well.

  • 31 On the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa, its colonisation and the development of the narrative of mart (...)

35Here comes the final and most visibly shocking act of violence perpetrated on a sculpture, of a deity who was himself known to be a violent ghoul. It has been used as a slab over a well, the ropes of the buckets of water that have rubbed against his body for centuries have cut deep into the sculpture. The image was taken from a Hindu temple during the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa. However, rather than just mention the violent conflict during the Portuguese Inquisition, the museum also finds it necessary to spend more words to explain the violent nature of the Hindu iconography. After all, without an understanding of the gods of India, they were widely regarded as being monstrous, their worship deemed worthy of punishment by death.31 The Basilica of Bom Jesus is designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and again, like the Qutub Minar, remains one of the most highly visited sites of India. What has not regrettably been addressed in the otherwise excellent (if lengthy) label text is why we are being told what we are told. How staging the problem of not knowing the cultural significance of a horrifying deity like Vetal/Bhairava leads to its “demonization”, justifying its vandalism. Further questions need addressing here. This is not the only Vetal sculpture that has been treated in this way. There are others in the collection of the State Museum in Goa [Fig 12]. Were the wells where these sculptures were re-used, located in churches where temples once stood? Did the pre-existing practice of placing talismans and gargoyles around founts/springs and wells in Baroque and Gothic churches allow for adaptive re-use of these objects? When were the villages these images were located in turned Christian during the long history of the Inquisition in Goa? None of this is to over-emphasise or decry the history of the political violence at Goa manifested by the image, but equally, it is necessary to be able to tell its history better: informing us about the object’s patronage, and the context of its new identity, which are as much a part of its history as its iconography and moment of spoliation.

Fig. 12. Sculptures of Vetal

Fig. 12. Sculptures of Vetal

Stone. Goa. C. 700 AD and later. Left: 6 feet x 2 feet. Centre and right: 8 feet x 3 feet. Goa State Museum

Naman P. Ahuja

II.e. The long history of violence against Buddhists in India

  • 32 Verardi and Barba, Op. cit., 2011. For a more nuanced view of the rivalry, see Linrothe, Rob, “Beyo (...)

36My own first use of the technique was in the displays, films and catalogues that accompanied the exhibition, The Body in Indian Art, at the National Museum in Delhi in 2013. A prominent example, from Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh, was a sculpture of a Buddhist goddess Tārā that was turned around and the slab was used to carve an Ardhanārīśvara, the androgynous form of Śiva, on its reverse. [Fig. 13a & 13b] The famed capital city of Kannauj was subject in the 8th and 9th centuries to repeated attacks to control it by the Pala kings who were known to support Buddhism and the more Brahmanical Gurjara Pratiharas. There is a substantial bibliography on Hindu-Buddhist image rivalries from this period that discusses how iconographies were developed of deities of one faith trampling over those of another, and on the takeover of Buddhist shrines by Śaivite groups on the one hand, and the politics behind the incorporation of the Buddha as an incarnation of Viṣṇu on the other.32 It was important to situate this sculpture within this wider history.

Fig. 13a. Tara and Ardhanarishvara

Fig. 13a. Tara and Ardhanarishvara

Double-sided carved relief (front and back). Sandstone. 8th century. Kannauj Museum (79/251)

The Body in Indian Art

Fig. 13b. Tara and Ardhanarishvara

Fig. 13b. Tara and Ardhanarishvara

Double-sided carved relief (front and back). Sandstone. 8th century. Kannauj Museum (79/251)

The Body in Indian Art

37Metaphors of double meanings seem to be writ all over this image in many ways. Not only is it a double-sided image, the interesting thing about it was that on the better preserved side where it is beautifully sculpted, the Ardhanārīśvara, also combines two gods in one: a metaphor for the cessation of duality shown by combining the masculine and feminine form. The side which shows Tārā is also complex: for merely a goddess shown with a lotus could also be the Vaiṣṇava Lakṣmī. This prompted questions about whether a Vaiṣṇava shrine was turned into a Śaivite one? It is only on close inspection that we can discern that receiving the goddess’s benefaction below her right hand is a kneeling preta, the hungry ghoulish spirit of the dead receiving the goddess’s mercy, which is a known feature of the medieval sculptures of the Buddhist Tārā. The style of the sculptures on both sides is identical, perhaps made by the same workshop. This brought to focus problems of chronology, for it seems that the shift in the shrine’s allegiance happened within a generation of the commissioning of the Tārā. The modern museum audience was left questioning if the patron changed her or his mind? Or did s/he not turn up at the artist’s workshop to claim the sculpture, leaving the artist the opportunity to reuse the slab for a different patron? The questions the label raised informed the viewers of the history of the sculpture, but also made them participate, dynamically, in the difficulties in positing simplistic understandings of iconoclasm and vandalism by squarely taking the entire discussion away from Islam, and revealing how others too have desecrated “gods”.

II.f. Public celebrations of political violence

  • 33 For a discussion on death, and monuments and memorials to the dead, see “Death: The Body is But Tem (...)
  • 34 For a more complete review of the variety of hero stones and concomitant attitudes to the heroic de (...)

38Conflict is not, of course, only religious, and iconoclasm is not the only type of violence that images can tell a history of. Living in the age of the so-called “Islamic terror”, we are often alerted to how political conflict is given a religious guise. Many a religion has made much of their martyrs although mentions of those who commit jihad are given more attention internationally. Martyrology is an established subject in Christianity, Sikhism and other religions. Centuries old monuments to the deified dead can be seen as stone stelae, posts or wooden pillars all over India as well.33 Certain kinds of death, premature, violent and undeserved, can make a person a worthy object of worship. Significantly, the process that transforms humans into deities does not depend on moral considerations here, but on violence. We opened the exhibition at the National Museum with a display of two graphic sculptures, a Vīrakkal and Vīrasatī from the 13th century Kākaṭīya period of Telangana [Fig. 14a & 14b]. Hero stones dedicated to men are called Viragal or Virakkal, while those dedicated to women are called Virasati. Both sculptures, on public display for more than 700 years, have served to commemorate and even exonerate the violence they communicate. These sculpted stones are not uncommon, such memorials to warriors and sati-stones to women who were cremated on their husband’s pyres are to be found across the length and breadth of South Asia; both serve a public purpose, to normalise violent martyrdom in society.34

Fig. 14a. Viragal (memorial to a soldier)

Fig. 14a. Viragal (memorial to a soldier)

Black basalt. Andhra Pradesh. Kakatiya, 13th century. 114 x 61 x 10 cm. State Archaeology Museum, Hyderabad (P 5499)

The Body in Indian Art

Fig. 14b. Virasati (memorial to a female warrior)

Fig. 14b. Virasati (memorial to a female warrior)

Black basalt. Andhra Pradesh. Kakatiya, 13th century. 112 x 71 x 13 cm. State Archaeology Museum, Hyderabad (HM 88-51)

The Body in Indian Art

  • 35 Mahābhārata, ed. V.S. Sukthankar, Poona 1933, Śānti Parva, chapters 98–99 have several references. (...)

39In this example, the male soldier is shown disembowelling himself, his innards spilling out of his halved body. In return for offering their lives for the greater cause of war for their king, the promise of heaven was held out to soldiers –a heaven where they would be received by celestial damsels or apsaras who are visible in the upper corners of the sculpture. This gift was not the preserve of men alone: women are also commemorated for their valour and fidelity. Commemoration of women was more commonly done for those who committed sati, widows who burned themselves alive on their husband’s funeral pyres. It is rare to find examples of women warriors commemorated, such as the one shown here. However, lest the public be mistaken that women soldiers were being used to convey female empowerment, we highlighted that on the sculpture they too were shown attended to by heavenly female apsaras.35 Was that because this was formulaic and sculptors were oblivious to the requirement that women may not, necessarily, want female apsaras waiting on them in heaven? The objects then proffer another narrative: of a male gaze unable to grasp female desire. Or perhaps, there is another implication, and that is that the woman warrior becomes a man in heaven. She gets two rewards –male gender and heaven. Short labels and provocative questions in the accompanying documentary films made the public see how patriarchy was entrenched in society. Again, the opportunity was used not merely to highlight the long history of institutionalisation of violence and martyrdom in Indian contexts, but also examine whom such institutionalisation served.

40The narrative was stretched further to a modern political environment in the same exhibition by placing calendar prints of martyrdom and violence as condoned in the Indian freedom movement. A clear example of this was a print that shows Subhas Chandra Bose, a prominent figure of the Indian freedom movement standing with his head severed: [Fig. 15] and called Subhāścandra bos ki apūrv bheṅṭ or “Subhas Chandra Bose’s Remarkable Offering”. He holds his own severed head in his hand while his dripping blood forms the map of India. This allowed us to build a narrative through another strategy: not by using text, or words, but instead by showing how visual narratives exist in civilisation and how these too are manipulated just as textual language of propaganda and mythology are. Iconography, once established, is capable of being adapted and used time after time. This is, after all, what a museum can do –expose the artistic vocabulary of visual communication, and reveals, in this case, the continuity of the visual language of conflict.

Fig. 15. “Subhas Chandra Bose’s Remarkable Offering”

Fig. 15. “Subhas Chandra Bose’s Remarkable Offering”

Offset Print “Published by Shyam Sunder Lal, Picture Merchant, Chowk, Cawnpore” c. 1940s. 16.5 x 13.5 inches. From the collection of Priya Paul

Priya Paul

II.g. Further gendered violence

  • 36 Previously published: Ahuja, Naman P., The Body in Indian Art and Thought, Antwerp: Ludion, 2013, p (...)

41We examined above how sati stones and memorials to warriors may have normalised violence, and move here to a ruthlessly decapitated 8th to 10th century image of a female Jain seer from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, which still lies in the Lucknow Museum without any explanatory text despite two major international exhibitions that have discussed its decapitation. [Fig. 16a & 16b] It can be interpreted in ways that suggest the beheading may have been done by those opposed to the idea of the canonisation of a woman saint rather than something perpetrated by an invading Muslim army.36 However, to reach such an interpretation required the involvement of the public in the many stages of its research. The first hurdle was the identification of who this sculpture represents.

Fig. 16a. Mallinatha

Fig. 16a. Mallinatha

Stone. Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. 12th century. 53 x 43 x 15.2 cm. Lucknow State Museum (J885)

The Body in Indian Art

Fig. 16b. Mallinatha

Fig. 16b. Mallinatha

Stone. Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. 12th century. 53 x 43 x 15.2 cm. Lucknow State Museum (J885)

The Body in Indian Art

  • 37 For a summary on Mallinatha, see Pal, Pratapaditya, Op. cit, p. 139; Dundas, Paul, The Jains, Londo (...)

42With her absolutely straight back, with one plait falling down its middle, breath drawn into her inflated chest, she sits meditating in padmāsana with just a simple flower held in her hands. Complete nudity in Indian art is usually linked with the figure of Jain tirthankaras. This sculpture is also completely nude, which is exceptional. Even when shown without clothes, Hindu goddesses are adorned, covered with jewellery and ornaments. In the Shvetambara tradition of Jainism, some believe that Mallinātha (the 19th Jain tirthankara) was a female and it has thus been suggested that this may be a sculpture of her. Supporting this view is also the dark colour of the stone, and the carving of a damaged water pot in the square niche on the pedestal, which are iconographic attributes of Malli.37

43The Jains are broadly divided into two sects –the Digambaras and the Shvetambaras. The Digambaras do not believe that women can achieve mokṣa , a stance that received its most hardened polemical explication by the seer Prabhāchandra in the 11th century. For them, the tirthankara Mallinātha is a male, and they also believe that the best women can aspire to is to be reborn as men, which will enable them, if they lead an exemplary virtuous life, to achieve mokṣa. In myths, while the Shvetambaras maintain that Malli was born a dark blue female who became a renunciate, the Digambaras insist upon him being born a male.

  • 38 Older Śvetāmbara texts, like the Nayadhammakahao (4th century AD), refer to Mallikumari as a beau (...)

44Shvetambara tirthankaras and nuns are clothed, which makes the identification of this image complicated. Questions were also raised if the Shvetambara image was once clad and ornamented as many images in worship now are, not allowing us to see it in the way that the sculptor had fashioned the body. The capacity for females to achieve liberation was never doubted in ancient texts, yet after the 5th century, a myth was created that Mallinātha’s gender was changed to a man, for only a man can achieve keval jñāna or mokṣa.38 This sculpture comes from a period when there was a resurgence of female figures as foci of worship across the bhakti and Tantric traditions. Nudity was regarded as an essential requirement for Digambara Jain ascetics, which would have caused social discomfiture when it came to women and several medieval women-saints spoke out against this. A question was thus posed about whether this female Mallinatha could have been beheaded by patriarchal Jain forces as much as by anyone else?

II.h. The violence of rhetoric and “fake news”

45Time and again, we have seen that violence perpetrated on bodies needs explanation. At times, the violence is itself iconographic and used to send out a different type of message –one that normalises the violence, or makes the horrific into a protective talisman, or a celebration, like a trophy of a victory. Objects have been used to make these statements in the above examples. Unlike sculptures, drawings or paintings, however, in modern times we have photographs, and these are not meant to be idealised or contrived artworks. Instead, they have an aura of authenticity about them, where they are meant to be documentary in nature, a snapshot of a moment. In the exhibition on “India & the World: A History in Nine Stories”, we used the opportunity to show that right from the earliest photographs, we can see, in fact, that they were carefully constructed to create not just a desired artistic effect, but a dangerous “documentary fact”.

46Felice Beato (1832–1909) was a commercial photographer, Venetian by birth but raised as a British imperial subject in Corfu, a British protectorate at the time. A five-decade long career took him from Ukraine during the Crimean War (1853-56) to India, China, Japan, Korea, and Burma, providing some of the earliest photographic images of colonial heroism and the exotic lives of these countries. He arrived in India in February 1858 to record the aftermath of the Revolt of 1857. He worked at Delhi, Kanpur and Lucknow under the guidance and help of military officers, where he re-staged the conflicts in order to photograph them. [Fig. 17] In the catalogue that accompanied the display of one his most (in)famous photographs, I wrote,

Conveying brutality was his intention, and this involved the exhumation and restaging of corpses of natives artfully scattered before the shelled building. The display of the wrecked building reveals to the British press where the image would have been seen, the extent of Indian outrage, while the corpses, and hangings of Indians in another picture, their retribution. This served the intention of justifying of the wresting of control from the East India Company to the crown, in 1858, making India a British colony, and Queen Victoria, as empress of India…

  • 39 Ahuja, Naman P. and J. D. Hill, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, New Delhi: Penguin (...)

Images have always had a fantastic power of enhancing and manipulating truth, and this has certainly been one of the strongest mediums of communication since the nineteenth century revealing a history of what is now called the construction of “news”.39

Fig. 17. Aftermath of the Mutiny in Secundrabagh, Lucknow

Fig. 17. Aftermath of the Mutiny in Secundrabagh, Lucknow

Photograph by Felice Beato. Albumen Print. AD 1858. H: 25.6 cm; W. 29.1 cm. The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, New Delhi (ACP: 94.139.0001a)

The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts

47Staging this in the museum in 2017-18 struck a chord with the public. In an environment when no one knows what to believe in the media and multiple versions of history are peddled as truths, when quickly edited images on mobile phones are gathered from one scenario but accompanied by persuasive rhetoric on a completely different matter, the public noted how longstanding the industry of visual propaganda has been. It brought home the point about how public opinion is swayed by the presentation of evidence, and how dangerously evidence has been created for the past 150 years. If the colonial government used it, so too has the Indian national movement employed the iconography of martyrdom to its purposes. The examples can easily be amplified, but that would turn this essay into a book. I have limited myself only to a few examples of how images in museum settings hold potential for communicating histories of political violence of many kinds. How seeing an image closely reveals perspectives apart from just their iconographic name, or artistic technique which is all that labels in museums normally concern themselves with.

48The exclusion of rich histories is symptomatic of something far more insidious. If the historiography of Indian art has shown something, it is that the ever-deepening engagement with iconography lures visitors (and scholars, most certainly) into the richness of psychological meaning inherent in Indian images, who remain blinded to the overt surface violence that images have been subjected to. Artworks in museum contexts appeal to both, our religiosity and the sense we make of our world through history: a history, that is based as much on reason as it draws on imagination. All images can be used for propaganda, but sacred images, we have seen, are particularly powerful communicators of difference. Further, they communicate even in a destroyed state, rather than just in a living temple context. While exploring the variety of political violence communicated in museums in India that house such images, we have also seen that before Islam took on the propaganda of making spectacles of destroying images, different communities in India used the same strategy. This knowledge compels us to revisit and nuance the generally assumed, singular narrative of Muslim iconoclasm. This can be done by museums to show the several reasons for the breakage of sculptures, and how the reappropriation of sacred sculptures in India has a long history, which precedes the advent of Islam; that Hindus did it to Jain and Buddhist images; that Hindus snatched images from rival kingdoms. Other images reveal inter-religious conflicts with Christian destructions of Hindu shrines, or Hindu anxieties about the popularity of Jains and Buddhists. Other factors too emerge: the apathy toward and collusion of upper castes in the removal or reappropriations of lower caste or “tribal” shrines, as well as the requirements of patriarchal keepers of religions to remove feminist threats. In addition to the rich histories of the Muslim destruction of Buddhist, Hindu or Sikh spaces, we also need to speak of Sanskritisation, the absorption of yakshas, inter-sectarian rivalries and caste exclusion. Where many speak of the brutality suffered by images, we must also remind Hindus (and others) that it was only in the 20th century that lower caste Hindus won the legal right to enter Hindu temples to see many of those images at all. Opening the museum’s space up to tell narratives will allow it to cause offence to all, rather than some, fulfilling the intention of no longer apportioning blame to one causative agent for the vandalism of sculptures in India, but focus on the larger narrative of the instruments of violence instead.

49Recycling images is not merely a sign of conflict or violence. The passage of time allowed Vishnu sculptures to be read as Buddhas in South East Asia, while many stupas have been reinvented as lingas in India. The provenance-history and biography of an object takes it, it is well known, through diverse contexts. Tracing several of those contexts helps stage the ones on violence and conflict along with others; our attention thus comes on the history of an object rather than only on the history of the political context –and this is key for the museum if it wishes to stay located in the disciplines of art history and aesthetics rather than be located in a department of politics.

50Each case must be read against the backdrop of the varied kinds of interests that would have seen to their restaging in new contexts or outright removal from public view in some other contexts. These case studies point at more complex historical circumstances under which the theft of images and iconoclasm are perpetrated. In each case, they reveal how these acts are performed for the sake of a certain public propaganda that seeks demonstration of the usurping of someone else’s source of power. Staging this in a museum and openly talking about a long history of how violence is communicated, may seek to unmask the strategies of violence.

III. Communicating subjectivities: will the loudest heckle the others into silence?

51“I don’t know what to believe anymore” is a common enough plea heard in the wake of fake news by the public, a public which certainly needs to mature. For too long have eloquent services of pre-modern art history writing in India served a singular cause, making the public follow their didactic command like sheep without raising their pupils to try and question or think critically. Tabling varied “facts” together may, put rather poetically, mirror the fissures of the sculptures themselves: teaching the public, eventually, to see the same artwork from many perspectives. Certainly, the perspective on the history of propaganda and political violence cannot be kept hidden. Unlike ever before, the rise of internet-based new media has made it a given that everyone now has an opportunity to articulate their position. This rise (and manipulation) of social media has allowed an articulation of divergent narratives that, when fuelled, create a more polarised society. As much as it has enabled opinions to emerge, its protections of anonymity and virtual identities leave speakers without responsibility for their comments, and with trolls paid to command the volume of opinions voiced, it has also become not merely an instrument of heckling, but equally, now, an instrument of violence. Fake news comes along with fake identities and fake sources, algorithmically programmed to communicate to its own echo-chambers, strengthening their conviction in their falsehoods. In the past two decades we have encountered interference in history textbooks of India which is more pernicious.

52Equally, silencing histories and people is also a violence. Vast swathes of the histories of South Asians, for instance, are relegated to ethnographic and crafts museums simply because they did not come from temple-worshipping cities, castes or communities. Often, objects that do not conform to the standard distinguishable stylistic markers of a period or iconography confuse museum staff to such degree that they are relegated to reserve collections –as the only format or narrative within which they can be brought on display is as a specimen of a period or religion at the exclusion of admitting them as evidence of other ways of telling different types of histories. It is better to say no known sources are available to tell us, rather than leave the field open to misrepresentation, and in the case of a damaged sculpture state what caused the damage to it when known, and again, when not known, to say that too.

53The grouping of objects is normally done because they are “specimens” of a particular taxonomical framework, and galleries of Indian art have been particularly moribund in their capacities to show things outside the religiously defined frameworks set up over a century ago. A wider pool of curatorial narratives allows for greater inclusion, and this will involve broken and damaged sculptures as well as other forms of material culture –utensils, scientific instruments, textiles, talismans and expressions of “folk” culture, along with the growing reserves of oral histories. There has been a move in the past few decades to revive the pedagogical function of the museums with the attendant anxieties of globalisation. In a world characterised by mass-migrations of populations living in diaspora, the major museums of historical objects of the world have found a new purpose as universal museums.

  • 40 François Jullien’s contention that divergence and profusion make for better ground to start dialogu (...)

54This revised mandate seeks to explain one culture to visitors from another and thereby perform a social function. Worthy as that is, implicit in the exercise is a presentation of that culture in the language of, or terms set by the culture in which it is being staged. Often, this has resulted in an oversimplification and driven by a requirement to tell children “the facts”, we prevent them from learning to live with differences of opinion. Sometimes, the mere act of using someone else’s language can create terms of assimilating the different culture even if that was not what was intended. At times, through translation, the terms of the cultural difference are lost or forgotten. Where 20th century advances in Chaos Theory in “arts” like mathematics has proved beyond doubt that other orders and harmonies also exist, the social “sciences” still find difference disconsonant.40

  • 41 How an older Indian worldview referred to the many Muslims in their language at times to assimilate (...)

55At the same time, not comparing objects can also be problematic. Patterns of how we allow difference to be recorded today need not be how people dealt with difference in times past. Cultures clashed and that sometimes led to efforts to accommodate the other, or assimilate them in a dominant culture.41 The same inscriptions or public texts can be understood differently depending on the worldview the reader comes from. That history also needs to be staged and told. In order to create a dialogue between contrasting positions, opposing views have to be brought to the same space for us to simply apprehend their difference, not achieve concord, but only to allow their differences to coexist on the same ground.

56This means it must be achieved both through the act of translation as well as by displaying different objects/positions together in a museum in order to show their divergence. This shared ground, therefore, need not provide a space of harmony; in fact, it must remain a space that can showcase the disharmony and provide a space for rebellion and divergence rather than be a propagandist (and even false) display of universal harmony, or brush conflict under a carpet.

57Admitting a problem is of course always the first step to recovery. Prejudice only remains powerful if it is kept secret –for it allows for secretive solidarities and those become narratives of victimhood that needs a protector, or to be righted by a saviour. Describing the causes of violence, its anatomy and pathology, will expose the propaganda machinery’s tools. The museum’s principal roles, then, are the protection of that evidence which it keeps so that it can be used again and again for each carefully constructed interpretation. And, evidence ought not to be kept as poorly as the neglect museums in India often find themselves in.

  • 42 Ahuja, Naman P., “The Body Redux”, in Almqvist, Kurt and Louise Belfrage, eds. Museums of the World (...)

58Why has the institution of the museum in India been so suppressed? This is a long subject which one has written on elsewhere.42 If museums are an important space to start displaying the evidence they house with greater care, then they need greater protection. In order to more openly tell the history of conflict, or to check the sources of [dis]information and the algorithms and propaganda that perpetuate each community’s inherited anxieties, museums will need to preserve their own status as places of knowledge production, foster research and debate, and above all, be open to changing their narratives. This certainly expands the definition of the job-profile of museum professionals. It also poses another question, whether the goal of the museum is then something evangelical? An aesthetic ennoblement? Social harmony?

59That may have been the opinion of several 18th and 19th century European pioneers of the discourse on museology. The terms of education, aesthetic communication and understanding diverse histories have changed today. In this essay, I have tried to reveal some of the ways in which we are able to stage the discourse in the public sphere. What was examined in each case study was not a one-off, but an image that was given a close reading (or “thick description” if you will) for it to be contextualised within various types of research to be able to show how violence is culturally constructed. In the exhibitions I have curated, as well as in the few other examples I have cited in this essay, an effort was made to reveal to the public how those conclusions were reached. Repeated contextualisation reveals the instruments by which society has normalised political violence through history. In the end, what begins to emerge is that the chief instrument of violence was not the perpetration of physical damage inflicted on the images, but the social structures which encouraged it, the propaganda that accompanied it, mobilised and justified the violence. The denial of the long history of the propaganda itself, and ignorance of how it has been mobilised, allows the public to remain susceptible to it. Perhaps then, the only solution is to stage and display the propaganda so that the public can see it for what it is.

60Apart from people, heritage sites and museums remain visible sites for political violence, precisely because of the kind of media attention they get. It is well known that this is because destroyed sites have a long lasting impact. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001 emboldened extremists to further destroy more art and heritage. And entire political campaigns in India have fed off the act of the destruction of a mosque and promised building of a temple in its place in Ayodhya. Iconoclasm was revived at Nimrud and Hatra –the great historical sites of ancient Mesopotamia; Palmyra bears testimony to its devastating effects. Brushing such violence under the carpet is no solution, but the task then becomes one of how we achieve the necessary balance in narrating it.

  • 43 A much repeated argument by Thapar, Romila, “The Tyranny of Labels”, in Cultural Pasts: Essays in E (...)

61Museums of Indian art, and Asian art on the whole, continue to present Indian art in galleries divided by religions. Many a scholar has noted that the problem that seems to afflict the presentation of Indian art in galleries across the world is its stereotyping on the grounds of its religious identification. The division and presentation of museum galleries of Hindu art, Buddhist art and Islamic art, has a long colonial legacy, when history used to be taught in that manner. While history books changed so as to deal with more neutral, chronological nomenclature, museums did not. By identifying sculpture only by their iconography, museums remain resistant to moving away from telling anything but a history of religions through their displays of Indian artefacts.43 Thus, while it is possible to pick up a history book on the diverse Hindu cultures patronised by Deccani and Mughal kings, galleries of Hindu art tend to conclude their presentation of Hindu art in the 14th century leaving the public with the misunderstanding that there was no patronage of Hindu culture under the Sultanates and Muslim rulers.

62Within the separated galleries of Hindu and Islamic art too, there are pernicious stereotypes. Instead of presenting these as historically changing religions, conditioned by the geographic, economic and political exigencies of each moment in time, Hinduism ends up being presented as some eternal religion while Islam is invariably essentialised as a culture that revelled in floral and geometric decorative ornamentation and calligraphy because making images was prohibited. Countless Indian Muslims who have a diverse range of ritual practices remain excluded from this narrow, singular definition. Culture and the diversity of narratives which a museum is capable of illuminating remain only marginal to the dominant presentation of iconography: who is Shiva or Krishna, identifying a few goddesses, and identifying some styles and periods of Indian art. What political, social and economic changes came in that period, what advances in science and technology permitted concomitant shifts in the perception of culture, how patronage shifted, who controlled the narrative and how it was adapted to suit that age… These many questions remain unanswered.

63Inasmuch as a museum romanticises religion such that the aura of spiritual images can inspire audiences, even give solace and open windows to the profound nature of ancient thought, it must equally be noted how such noble emotion is taken advantage of, how this precious but subtle feeling becomes a commodity so easily stolen and used for political profiteering by creating sectarian fault lines. Making some space for an acknowledgement of human fallibility and national shame may bring temperance and some room to listen rather than use the museum only as a space to instil pride and allow the public to marvel and boast.

64Museums of Indian art are, as I stated earlier, spaces that remain neglected, and the state of neglect itself is criminal, not merely because people have a claim on their history, but because the museum is a preserver of evidence. Does that mean it is a law court? Not exactly. Contrary to the emerging narrative of the museum as a place of transitional justice, I do not believe the history- or art-museum is a place for conflict resolution or even catharsis, for that matter. This cannot be its intention. (Rather like Bharata or even Ānandavardhana) I feel that the simulacra of art can bring us close to an aesthetic experience of something that is almost indistinguishable from the thing itself; yet it retains that remove –barrier or enabler– of “almost”. Ānandavardhana and the aestheticians of yore claimed that it was possible to instil śānta-rasa by retelling the stories of that violence as for example did the Mahābhārata. Such retellings were a means for people to learn to abhor hate and conflict, for them to recognise how prejudices (when left secret) are manipulated and instrumentalised. The onus of interpreting the evidence shifts onto the public, making them complicit in the problematic nature of history. That it happens to achieve a catharsis or rouse empathy is a bonus we must aim for. And in order to be able to do this, the museum needs to be relevant to each generation, or constituency that views it.

65What will protect the historian to be able to tell such narratives? The historian curator can be perceived as someone who foments violence rather than peace, and this leads, again, to a suppression of the narrative. The only way forward appears to be able to use the museum to tell multiple sides of the story, to have fuller narratives, and to understand that the museum label is itself an integral part of the discourse. For the public, by seeing for themselves how evidence can be approached from different perspectives, it becomes part of the experience of the artwork. The instability of interpretations in each case will be accompanied by an understanding of the process by which we know what we do. The museum then encourages people to enter that space of building a narrative and leaves room for the staff to interpret and teach the audiences the skills and processes involved in the process of interpretation. To engage with the material itself, what more can the museum ask for?

I would like to thank Anne Cheng and the Collège de France for the invitation to present this paper at the conference “Historians of Asia on Political Violence” in June 2019. I remain deeply grateful to Prof. Phyllis Granoff for her guidance. Several ideas contained in this paper developed over years of conversation with Belinder Dhanoa. Professors Romila Thapar, Parul Dave Mukherji, Shadakshari Settar and James Hegarty who kindly supplied me valuable references which have helped substantiate the arguments contained herein. And Avani Sood, has helped sort out many of the practicalities that accompany research. Thank you all.

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Notes

1 Weil, Stephen E., Rethinking the Museum and other Meditations, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990, remains one of the most eloquent pieces on the shifts in the profession of Museum administration in the 20th century. He says: “To focus museum rhetoric on the socially beneficial aspects of a museum would ultimately be to invite discussion on a wide range of political and moral issues that could well pit trustees against staff members and staff members against one another. By contrast, to focus on function –on the good, seemingly value-free work of collecting, preserving and displaying– projects a sense of ideological neutrality (albeit, I suspect, a grossly deceptive sense) in which people of diverse social views are able to work more amiably together.” He continues: “Allied with this is a notion of the museum as a sort of neutral and transparent medium –a clear, clean, and undistorting lens– through which the public ought to be able to come face-to-face with an object, pure and fresh… At best, this seems a wilful naïveté… we must never forget that ideas –and not just things alone– also lie at the heart of the museum enterprise. Reality is neither objects alone nor simply ideas about objects but, rather, the two taken together.” Op. Cit. pp. 43-56.

2 A synoptic version of this article was published as Ahuja, Naman P. “Conflict: Can Museums Tell Us Why?” in Lowry, Glenn D., ed., Art and Conflict, Marg, Vol. 71, No. 4, June 2020, pp. 26-37.

3 In India, two relatively recent museums have been created on these lines: the Partition Museum in Amritsar and the Conflictorium in Ahmedabad. On the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, because of the “unearthing” of pasts, and the recording of the memory of traumatic experience which allowed the museum space to be used as a site of forgiveness and the “healing of memories”, see Rassool, Ciraj, “Community Museums, Memory Politics, and Social Transformation in South Africa: Histories, Possibilities and Limits”, in Ivan Karp, Corinne A. Kratz, Lynn Szwaja and Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, eds., Museum Frictions: Public Cultures/Global Transformations, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006. Transitional justice is becoming a stated claim of museums of contemporary conflict in many parts of the world. It can be seen across museums in Cambodia, Germany (on the Jewish holocaust). And even in the United States, which is known to be pro-Israel, in 2019, a new museum of oral history called the Museum of the Palestinian People opened in Washington DC.

4 Choudhury, Pravas Jivan, “Catharsis in the Light of Indian Aesthetics”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol 15, No. 2, Dec. 1956, pp. 215-226.

5 Tripathi, Radhavallabh, Vāda in Theory and Practice: Studies in Debates, Dialogues and Discussions in Indian Intellectual Discourses, Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, 2016, pp. 34-35 and pp. 256-259.

6 Tubb, Gary A. “Śāntarasa in the Mahābhārata”, Journal of South Asian Literature, Vol. 20, No. 1, Part 1: “Essays on the Mahābhārata”, Winter-Spring 1985, pp. 141-168, discusses what is the final, lasting effect of art/literature which takes an audience through a mélange of transitory emotions. He quotes Ānandavardhana: In the Mahābhārata, Vyāsa has demonstrated that the creation of detachment is the principal purport of his work.

7 McCrea, Lawrence, “Śāntarasa in the Rājatarangiṇī: History, epic, and moral decay”, Indian Economic and Social History Review, No. 50, 2, 2013, pp. 179-199.

8 Hegarty, James, Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination in South Asia: Past and Place in the Sanskrit Mahabharata, London: Routledge, 2012, p. 14 and further, pp. 73-79. This examination of the Mahābhārata explores how it justifies its own public intention. The Mahābhārata’s aesthetic concern is not merely academic as it was used for the education of princes and is a text quoted in a wide range of historical inscriptions which reveal how it was very much part of public culture. Similar studies on the affective history of the Ramayana have been built by several scholars. See Pollock, Sheldon, “Ramayana and Political Imagination in India”, Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 52, No. 2, 1993, pp. 261-297.

9 On the controversy around Indian history textbooks, see Communalisation of Education: The History Textbooks Controversy, Delhi: Delhi Historians’ Group, 2001. The matter was taken up extensively in Indian and international media, see for example Ramesh, Randeep, “Another rewrite for India’s history books” in The Guardian on 26 June 2004: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/jun/26/india.schoolsworldwide, accessed 5 December 2019. Further, Habib, Irfan, Suvira Jaiswal and Aditya Mukherjee, History in the New NCERT Textbooks, Kolkata: Indian History Congress, 2003.

10 In 2019, media attention was being given to the creation of a museum of oral histories on both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict in Washington DC called the Museum of the Palestinian People. Surely, there can be no greater evidence for the move in museum curation/narratives towards the requirement to voice the diversity of opinion that make a nation’s public. See footnote 1 above. There is a rising parallel scholarship in the field of performance studies that takes a similar approach, see Hughes, Jenny, Performance in a Time of Terror: Critical Mimesis and the Age of Uncertainty, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011, and Cole, Catherine, Performing South Africa’s Truth Commission: Stages of Transition, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

11 References to the attacks against Jains may be found across the 13th century Lingayat Vīra-śaiva Telugu epic poem, the Basava Purāṇa. See Narayana Rao, Velcheru, ed., Siva’s Warriors: The Basava-Purana of Palkuriki-Somanatha, Princeton University Press, 1990. On the Periya Purāṇa see Monius, Anne, “Love, Violence and the Aesthetics of Disgust: Śaivas and Jains in Medieval South India”, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol 32, 2004, pp.113-172. The desecration of Jain sites along with Buddhist ones is amplified further in the recent book by Verardi, Giovanni and Federica Barba: The Gods and the Heretics: Crisis and Ruin of Indian Buddhism, New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan and Fundación Bodhiyána, 2018. I am grateful to Prof. Phyllis Granoff and Prof. S. Settar for rich readings on this matter. On medieval stories of Jains who split the sacred linga of Śiva with their ascetical power and the Śaivite rebuttal through stories of their own: Granoff, Phyllis, “Telling Tales: Jains and Śaivaites and their Stories in Medieval South India”, lecture delivered at Harvard University, April 8, 2009, and University of Wisconsin, Madison, April 30, 2009, (unpublished). She explores the significance of the many Jain stories of the splitting of a Siva linga such as the conversion of Kumarapala by Hemacandra and Samantabhadra’s destruction of the linga in the creation of a public rhetoric. For Jain Samantabhadra’s story of splitting the linga, see Granoff, Phyllis, “The Biographies of Siddhasena: A Study in the Texture of Allusion and the Weaving of a Group Image”, Journal of Indian Philosophy, 17, 1989, pp. 329-384. The severe Saiva-Srivasnava conflict at Srirangam in the 13th-14th century is testified by both inscriptions and the temple chronicle, Koil Olugu. Prof. Settar supplied me the following list of inscriptional references for Karnataka/the Deccan: “The Arjunawada inscription dated 1184 lists the Jaina basadis destroyed by the Saivas. For details, see South Indian Inscriptions Vol. XV, Bijapur 5. Also see another inscription, Navalgund 59. Fleet has edited the inscriptions located at Ablur which narrate the destruction of a Jaina temple by a Siva devotee. The interesting point is the sculptural narration of beheading of images of Tirthankaras on this temple. For the text, see Epigraphia Indica, Vol. V, pp. 213-256; also see Epigraphia Indica Vol. XXIX. pp.140-141. The famous Jaina-Śrīvaiṣṇava conflict is recorded in a Sravana Belgola inscription. See Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol II, no. 427 dated 1368. For a forced conversion of a Jaina village named Gommatahalli into Śrivaiṣṇava agrahara and naming it Raghavapura, see Epigraphia Carnatica Vol. III, Gudlupet inscription 40 dated 1320.” On an interesting reversal of the Jain use of a Hindu shrine, see Hegewald, Julia, “From Shiva to Parshvanatha: The Appropriation of a Hindu Temple for Jaina Worship” in Catherine Jarrige and Vincent Lefèvre, eds. South Asian Archaeology, Vol 2, Paris: Editions Recherches sur les Civilisations, 2001, pp. 517-523. Interestingly, Hegewald traces the many appropriations this site went through. Before it was dedicated to Parshvanatha in colonial times, it was dedicated to Adinatha. Tamara Sears has taken a similar approach to reconstruct the many iterations that Shaiva monasteries in Central India went through, not just under the Sultanates but also in the hands of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which after all is also an intervention at the site. See Sears, Tamara I. “Fortified Mathas and Fortress Mosques: The Transformation and Reuse of Hindu Monastic Sites in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries”, Archives of Asian Art, Vol. 59, 2009, pp. 7-31.

12 Indian rules of deconsecration and what to do with spolia vary depending on which Śaivāgama or Vaikhanasa Āgama one reads. Goudriaan, Teun, Kāśyapa’s Book of Wisdom (Kāsyapa-Jñānakāṇḍaḥ): A Ritual Handbook of the Vaikhānasas, The Hague: Mouton and Co., 1965, pp. 304-306, states that the discarded images are to be immersed in water, or fragmentary images may also be buried. A more broad-based study is collated in Triplett, Katja, “The Making and Unmaking of Religious Objects: Sacred Waste Management in Comparative Perspective”, in Morishita, Saburo Shawn, ed., Materiality in Religion and Culture, Zurich: LIT Verlag, 2017, pp. 143-154.

13 Discarding in water is as per ritual injunction, see ibid.

14 It is well-known that graves in churchyards and even the walls of several churches in the British Isles, for instance, have been used centuries after their construction for the sharpening of arrows. Photographed aplenty, a sampling can be seen online: http://www.derbyshireheritage.co.uk/Menu/Curiosities/thorpe-arrow-grooves.php; and https://photoreflect.blogspot.com/2010/07/sharpening-marks-and-old-churches.html; https://ahistoryofbirminghamchurches.jimdo.com/yardley-st-edburgha/;

I was reminded also of Zen and Chinese Buddhist stories of monks who used sacred images for their intrinsic value, for profane purposes. Koichi Shinohara has written about a Chinese story in “The ‘Iconic’ and ‘Aniconic’ Buddha Visualisation in Medieval Chinese Buddhism”, in Assmann, Jan and Albert I. Baumgarten, eds., Representation in Religion: Studies in Honor of Moshe Barasche, Leiden: Brill, 2002, pp. 146-147. The Japanese Zen story is attributed to Ikkyū Sōjun (1394–1481), see https://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/06/ikkyu-the-bones-of-the-buddha-statue/. In the story, we are told that Ikkyu was staying in a temple on a cold winter night where he burned a Buddha statue to warm himself. The priest in charge was roused and saw the Buddha statue burning while Ikkyu was sitting there, warming his hands over the fire. The priest exclaimed, “What are you doing?! Are you a madman?! — I thought you to be a Buddhist monk. This is profane!” Ikkyu said, “But the Buddha within me was feeling very cold. So it was a question whether to sacrifice the living Buddha to the wooden one, or to sacrifice the wooden one to the living one. And I decided for life.” The priest was so angry that he couldn’t listen. He said, “You are a madman! Get out of here! You have burned Buddha!” So Ikkyu started to search through the ashes with a stick, and, further infuriated, the priest asked, “What are you doing now?!” Ikkyu said, “I am trying to find the bones of the Buddha.” So the priest laughed and said, “You are absolutely mad! You cannot find bones there, because it is just a wooden Buddha.” The priest recognised that he had not burned the Buddha, but a wooden statue. The story ends when Ikkyu laughed and said, “Then bring the other two Buddha statues. The night is still very cold.”

15 Fergusson, James. Tree and Serpent Worship, London: India Museum, 1868; Coomaraswamy, A.K., Yakṣas, Washington: The Smithsonian Institution, 1928; also see Misra, R.N., Yaksha Cult and Iconography, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1981; more interpretative works like: Sutherland, G.H., The Disguises of the Demon: the Development of the Yakṣa in Hinduism and Buddhism, Albany (N.Y.): State University of New York Press, 1991.

16 Eschmann, A., H. Kulke and G.C. Tripathi, The Cult of Jagannath and the Regional Tradition of Orissa, New Delhi: Manohar, 2005.

17 Freedberg, David, “The Structure of Byzantine and European Iconoclasm”, in Bryer, Anthony and Judith Herrin, eds., Iconoclasm: Papers given at the Ninth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham, March 1975, University of Birmingham, 1977, pp. 165-177; Gamboni, Dario, The Destruction of Art: Iconoclasm and Vandalism since the French Revolution, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997; Spencer, George W. “The Politics of Plunder: The Cholas in Eleventh-Century Ceylon”, Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 35, No. 3, May 1976, pp. 405-419; Flood, Finbarr Barry, “Pillars, Palimpsests and Princely Practices: Translating the Past in Sultanate Delhi”, Res 43, 2003, pp. 95-116; Flood, F.B., “Reconfiguring Iconoclasm in the early Indian Mosque”, in Maclanen, Ann and Jeffrey Johnson, eds., Negating the Image: Case Studies in Iconoclasm, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005, pp. 15-40; Flood, F. B., Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval “Hindu-Muslim” Encounter, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009; Davis, Richard, Lives of Indian Images, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999; Thapar, Romila, Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History, London, New York: Verso, 2005 (particularly pp. 214-17 and pp. 224-26), and Singh, Upinder, Political Violence in Ancient India, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 2017.

18 Eaton, Richard M. has a widely reproduced study on this issue: “Temple Desecration and Indo‑Muslim States,” in Gilmartin, David and Bruce B. Lawrence, eds., Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000, pp. 246‑81; and also in Flood, F.B., ed., Piety and Politics in the Early Indian Mosque, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008, pp. 64-96; as well as in Kumar, Sunil, ed., Demolishing Myths or Mosques and Temples? Readings on History and Temple Desecration in Medieval India, New Delhi: Three Essays Press, 2008, pp. 93-139; and finally in Vanina, Eugenia and D. N. Jha, eds., Medieval Mentality, Delhi: Tulika Books, 2008, pp. 293-324; “Temple Desecration in pre-modern India”, Frontline, December 22, 2000.

19 Eaton, 2000, pp. 65-66. See the previous study: Davis, Richard, “Indian Art Objects as Loot”, Journal of Asian Studies, 52, 1993, pp. 22-48.

20 Spencer, George W., “The Politics of Plunder: The Cholas in Eleventh-Century Ceylon”, Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 35, No. 3, May 1976, pp. 405-419; Verardi, Giovanni and Federica Barba, Hardships and Downfall of Buddhism in India, New Delhi: Manohar, 2011.

21 Flood, F.B., studies Islamic proscriptions on idol worship and reassesses the question of Islam’s “image problem”, the relationship between “proscription, prescription and artistic praxis”, and the significance of Bilderverbot (prohibition against images) as a concept in shaping perceived characteristics of Islamic cultures in particular and Islam in general; see Flood, 2009; also see Patel, Alka, “The Historiography of Reuse in South Asia”, Archives of Asian Art, Vol 59, 2009, pp. 1- 8, in addition to the citations given in the previous notes 17 to 20.

22 On the contested history of Bodh Gaya, see Asher, Frederick, Bodh Gaya, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2008: pp. 8-23; Amar, Abhishek Singh, “Bodhgaya and Gaya: Buddhist Responses to the Hindu Challenges in Early India,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. 22, 1, March 2012, pp. 155-185; Kinnard, Jacob N., “When is the Buddha not the Buddha: The Hindu Buddhist Battle over Bodhgayā and its Buddha Image”, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol 66, No. 4, Winter 1998, pp. 817-839.

23 Jīrṇoddhāra, reviving or rescuing what exists in a state of ruin, remains an under-researched term that recurs widely in inscriptions at a variety of sites: at Indian temples as well as at “Islamic” monuments where guilds of Hindu craftsmen worked and continued to use their existing vocabulary. See Prasad, Pushpa, Sanskrit Inscriptions of the Delhi Sultanate 1191-1526, Delhi and New York: Centre for Advanced Study in History, AMU and Oxford University Press 1990, pp. 33-35. For the copying and re-use of Ashokan pillars as spolia, see Williams, Joanna, “Recut Ashokan Capital and the Gupta Attitude toward the Past”, Artibus Asiae, XXXV, 1973, pp. 225-240. In her lecture titled “Encapsulating the World: Ashoka’s pillar at Allahabad” at the CSMVS, Mumbai, Romila Thapar discussed Ashoka’s pillar inscription at Allahabad and how it has been subsequently re-used. The text for this can be found at https://guftugu.in/2018/06/pillar-of-ashokamaurya-romila-thapar/. Cultural memory and oral history come to the fore in John Irwin’s study of the reappropriations of the motif of the pillar as a solar symbol: Irwin, John, “Islam and the Cosmic Pillar”, in Frifelt, Karen and Per Sorensen, eds., South Asian Archaeology 1985, Scandanavian Institute of Asian Studies, Occasional Papers 4, Curzon Press,1989, pp. 397-406. Upinder Singh also discusses the reuse of Ashokan pillars in her two essays: “A Tale of Two Pillars”, pp. 119-122, and “The Later Histories of the Ashokan and Mehrauli Pillars”, pp. 207-211, in her edited volume, Delhi: Ancient History, New Delhi: Social Science Press, 2006. For a readable account of the life of Ashoka and his violence and conversion, see Lahiri, Nayanjot, Ashoka in Ancient India, Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Press, 2015.1.

24 The figures reported by the Ministry of Culture to the Parliament on the number of visitors to the Qutub Minar in 2016-17 was 3.4 million, reported by Sharma, Aman, “Tourists Up at Taj Mahal and Red Fort, but Qutub Minar Loses its No. 2 Spot”, The Economic Times, 10 July, 2019.

25 The publication about the Qutub complex which is sold at the official ASI shop at the site is incendiary in its tone. World Heritage Series: Qutb Minar and Adjoining Monuments, New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 2002, claims that it is “based” on the text of J.A. Page and Y.D. Sharma. A line from it, for instance, reads: “Fired by religious zeal, the soldiers of Islam set about destroying and despoiling the symbols and structures of others.” Spolia and iconoclasm at the Qutub Minar are all pervasive and evident to anyone who visits the site, making it a key site to present an argument about Islamic iconoclasm. However, this needs to be done responsibly. The booklet is filled with many such provocative examples, without providing a counter-narrative. What they fail to point out is that the language of religious iconoclasm which has in fact been used stems from the propaganda of the time. At the time, such iconoclasm was not only celebrated but credit was given to those who perpetrated it.

Much reprinted and sold by the ASI at the Qutub Minar, their booklet presents particularly outdated research on the history of Sultanate architecture and style, not to speak of a complete disregard of current research and interpretation on spolia, and iconoclasm. One may even argue that it is deliberately inflammatory.

26 Images of the sculptures retrieved online on 20 December 2019 at: http://museumsofindia.gov.in/repository/record/nat_del-59-539-26388
http://museumsofindia.gov.in/repository/record/nat_del-L-39-35110
http://museumsofindia.gov.in/repository/record/nat_del-L-39-5308

27 The discovery was reported by the Archaeological Survey of India, see Ghosh, Amalananda, ed., Indian Archaeology – A Review 1958-59, Delhi, 1959, p. 71, and Pl. LXXIV A. The inscription has been interpreted in two ways: either as a record that it was donated by a merchant from Rohtak, or that it was donated by a person who is of the Rohatgi or Rastogi sub-caste of Vaiśyas. Further discussion on the iconography and inscription of the image is available in Sharma, B.N., “An inscribed Image of Viṣṇu-Saṁkarṣaṇa from Mehrauli, Delhi”, Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art (JISOA), Vol. VI, 1986, pp. 67-71.

28 Asher, Catherine, Delhi’s Qutb Complex: The Minar, Mosque and Mehrauli, Mumbai: The Marg Foundation, 2017.

29 Eaton, Richard M., “Temple desecration and Indo-Muslim States”, in Gilmartin, D. and B.B. Lawrence, eds., Beyond Turk and Hindu: Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia, pp. 246-281, and Kumar, Sunil, “Qutb and Modern Memory”, in Kaul, Suvir, ed., Partitions of Memory, pp. 140-181, reprinted in The Present in Delhi’s Pasts (Delhi: Three Essays Press, 2002). Eaton, Richard M. and Phillip B. Wagoner: Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2014. And Flood, F.B., “Refiguring Islamic Iconoclasm: Image Mutilation and Aesthetic Innovation in the Early Indian Mosque” in Kumar, Sunil, ed., Demolishing Myths or Mosques and Temples? Readings on History and Temple Desecration in Medieval India, Delhi: Three Essays Press, 2008.

On Hindu and Jain attitudes in contemporaneous texts towards Muslim destruction of their holy sites in North India in the late medieval period, see Granoff, Phyllis: “Tales of Broken Limbs and Bleeding Wounds: Responses to Muslim Iconoclasm in Medieval India”, East and West, Vol. 41, No. 1/4, December 1991, pp. 189-203. Phil Wagoner’s rich study on reappropriation of older monuments focuses on how Chalukya and Kakatiya monuments in the Deccan were appropriated by the Sultanates very selectively: Wagoner, Phillip B., “Retrieving the Chalukyan Past: The Politics of Architectural Reuse in the Sixteenth-Century Deccan”, South Asian Studies, 23, 1, 2007, pp. 1-29. The criteria for selection reveals that this was done as part of a broader cultural process with a clear understanding of the role played by history in the public imagination. This forms an informative paradigm for understanding the phenomenon of reuse in Sultanate times which takes us beyond the very simplistic presentation of religious conflict.

30 The museum’s text amplifies this with literary references: “We find references to the Vetal in the Mahanubhava literature, in the Shree Vetal Sahasranama, and in the Dhyaneshwari by Sant Dhyaneshwar. This worship is also mentioned by the saint poet Eknath from Maharashtra. The contents of Shree Vetal Sahasranama (Thousand Names of God Vetal) identify the Arjuna tree (Terminalia Arjuna) as the abode of Vetal and hence Vetal images are carved out of the wood of this tree.”

31 On the Portuguese Inquisition in Goa, its colonisation and the development of the narrative of martyrdom to do so, see Lourenço, Miguel Rodrigues, A Articulação da Periferia: Macau e a Inquisição de Goa (c. 1582- c. 1650), Lisbon, Macau: Centro Científico e Cultural de Macau, I.P., Ministério de Educação e Ciência, 2016; Axelrod, Paul and Michelle A. Fuerch, “Flight of the Deities: Hindu Resistance in Portuguese Goa”, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2, May 1996, pp. 387-421, has precise references on p. 411. On the cultural reception of Hindu images by Europeans at this time, see Mitter, Partha, Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977, which contends with the misperception and demonisation of Indian deities at this time.

32 Verardi and Barba, Op. cit., 2011. For a more nuanced view of the rivalry, see Linrothe, Rob, “Beyond Sectarianism: towards reinterpreting the iconography of esoteric Buddhist deities trampling Hindu gods”, Indian Journal of Buddhist Studies, Vol. 2, 1990, pp. 16-25.

33 For a discussion on death, and monuments and memorials to the dead, see “Death: The Body is But Temporary”, in Ahuja, Naman P., The Body in Indian Art and Thought, Antwerp: Ludion, 2013, pp. 14-49, and the detailed citations therein.

34 For a more complete review of the variety of hero stones and concomitant attitudes to the heroic dead, see Settar, S. and G.D. Sontheimer, eds., Memorial Stones: a Study of their Origin, Significance and Variety, Heidelberg, New Delhi, University of Heidelberg and South Asia Institute, 1982; and Blackburn, Stuart H., “Death and Deification: Folk Cults in Hinduism”, History of Religions, vol. 24, No. 3, February 1985, pp. 255–274.

35 Mahābhārata, ed. V.S. Sukthankar, Poona 1933, Śānti Parva, chapters 98–99 have several references. For example, chapter 98, śloka 30: one who encounters death in battle attains high merit, fame, respect of the world and a place in Indra’s heaven.

36 Previously published: Ahuja, Naman P., The Body in Indian Art and Thought, Antwerp: Ludion, 2013, pp. 275 and 302, and Pal, Pratapaditya, The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art from India, exhibition catalogue. Los Angeles: LA County Museum of Art, 1995, p. 139; Tiwari, Maruti Nandan Prasad and Shanti Swaroop Sinha, Jaina Art and Aesthetics, New Delhi: Aryan Books International, 2011, pp.71-72.

37 For a summary on Mallinatha, see Pal, Pratapaditya, Op. cit, p. 139; Dundas, Paul, The Jains, London, New York: Routledge, 2002 (2nd edition), pp. 55-59.

38 Older Śvetāmbara texts, like the Nayadhammakahao (4th century AD), refer to Mallikumari as a beautiful princess.

39 Ahuja, Naman P. and J. D. Hill, India and the World: A History in Nine Stories, New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2017.

40 François Jullien’s contention that divergence and profusion make for better ground to start dialogue than a facile yearning for finding common ground in issues of identity and difference, is apposite. Jullien, François, Michael Richardson and Krzysztof Fijalkowski, transl., On the Universal, the uniform, the common and dialogue between cultures, Cambridge, UK, Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2014.

41 How an older Indian worldview referred to the many Muslims in their language at times to assimilate them, but at others, simply to comprehend them, or even to make their public work fit within the acceptable methods of comprehension long-established in India has been explored by Chattopadhyaya, Brajdulal, Representing the Other? Sanskrit Sources and the Muslims, Eighth to Fourteenth Century, Primus Books, 2017, pp. 42-45, 50-59.

42 Ahuja, Naman P., “The Body Redux”, in Almqvist, Kurt and Louise Belfrage, eds. Museums of the World: Towards a New Understanding of a Historical Institution, Stockholm: Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation, pp. 81-108, and see the Op. ed. titled “Who Appoints the Keeper of Memories”, The Hindu, All India Edition, 22 May 2015. See also: Singh, Kavita and Saloni Mathur, eds., No Touching, No Spitting, No Praying: The Museum in South Asia (Visual and Media Histories), New Delhi: Routledge, 2015.

43 A much repeated argument by Thapar, Romila, “The Tyranny of Labels”, in Cultural Pasts: Essays in Early Indian History, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 990-1014: “Thus James Mill differentiated the Hindu civilisation from the Muslim, which gave rise to periodisation of Indian history as that of the Hindu, Muslim and British periods. It crystallised the concept of a uniform, monolithic Hindu community dominating early Indian history as did the Muslim equivalent in the subsequent period, with relations between the two becoming conflictual.” She continues: “The dialogue between Indians, central Asian Turks, Persians and Arabs was a continuing one, irrespective of changes of dynasties and religions or of trade fluctuations. This dialogue is reflected, for example, in Sanskrit, Greek and Arabic texts relating to astronomy, medicine and philosophy, and in what is said of Indian scholars resident at the court of Harun al Rashid. (p. 993-4)… The assumptions have been that the Hindus and the Muslims each constituted a unified, monolithic community, and were therefore separate nations from the start, and that religious differences provide a complete, even though mono-causal explanation for historical events and activities in the second millennium AD.” p. 995).

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. Mahavira
Légende c. 9th–10th century. Bhadrak, Odisha State Museum, Bhubaneshwar (Acc. No. 22)
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 230k
Titre Fig. 2. Ajitnatha, 2nd Tirthankara
Légende c. 9th–10th century AD. Charampa, Bhadrak, Odisha. Odisha State Museum, Bhubaneshwar (Acc. No. 21)
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 210k
Titre Fig. 2 detail
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 202k
Titre Fig. 3. Shantinatha, 16th Tirthankara
Légende c. 9th-10th century AD. Charampa, Bhadrak, Odisha. Odisha State Museum, Bhubaneshwar (Acc. No. 19)
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 186k
Titre Fig. 3 detail
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 167k
Titre Fig. 4. Chamunda
Légende Stone. Bhadrak, Orissa. Probably 8th-9th century
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 342k
Titre Fig. 5. Surya
Légende Stone. Bhadrak, Orissa. Probably 9th-10th century
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 153k
Titre Fig. 6
Légende The river Salandi that flows through Bhadrak, from where several of the damaged statues have been retrieved and collected either for the museum or placed in new shrines.
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 133k
Titre Fig. 7
Légende The Mauryan pillar relocated to the Allahabad Fort was originally inscribed during the reign of Ashoka, appropriated and re-inscribed in the time of the Guptas, and then again, reappropriated and re-inscribed in the time of the Mughal emperor, Jahangir.
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 290k
Titre Fig. 7 detail
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 183k
Titre Fig. 8. Fragment of a railing pillar showing a shalabhanjika
Légende Buff sandstone. C. 2nd-1st century BC. Qutub Minar, Mehrauli, Delhi. 77.5 x 25.5 cm. National Museum, Delhi (59.539)
Crédits National Museum, Delhi
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-11.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 182k
Titre Fig. 9. Vishnu
Légende Found southeast of the Qutub Minar. Dated 1147, during the period of Chauhan/Gahadavala rule. H: 105 cm. National Museum, New Delhi (L39)
Crédits AIIS
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-12.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 235k
Titre Fig. 9 detail
Crédits AIIS
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-13.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 160k
Titre Fig. 10a. A panel with a carved Buddha and a mihrab on the reverse
Légende Black basalt. Obverse: Eastern India, Pala period, c. 10th century. Reverse: Gaur, West Bengal, c. 15th century. H: 84.1 cm. British Museum (1880.145)
Crédits The British Museum
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-14.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre Fig. 10b. A panel with a carved Buddha and a mihrab on the reverse
Légende Black basalt. Obverse: Eastern India, Pala period, c. 10th century. Reverse: Gaur, West Bengal, c. 15th century. H: 84.1 cm. British Museum (1880.145)
Crédits The British Museum
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-15.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 89k
Titre Fig. 11. Vetal
Légende Basalt stone. Betalbatim, South Goa. Probably 7th-12th centuries. ASI Museum, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-16.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 190k
Titre Fig. 11 detail
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-17.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 231k
Titre Fig. 12. Sculptures of Vetal
Légende Stone. Goa. C. 700 AD and later. Left: 6 feet x 2 feet. Centre and right: 8 feet x 3 feet. Goa State Museum
Crédits Naman P. Ahuja
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-18.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 171k
Titre Fig. 13a. Tara and Ardhanarishvara
Légende Double-sided carved relief (front and back). Sandstone. 8th century. Kannauj Museum (79/251)
Crédits The Body in Indian Art
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-19.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 207k
Titre Fig. 13b. Tara and Ardhanarishvara
Légende Double-sided carved relief (front and back). Sandstone. 8th century. Kannauj Museum (79/251)
Crédits The Body in Indian Art
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-20.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 187k
Titre Fig. 14a. Viragal (memorial to a soldier)
Légende Black basalt. Andhra Pradesh. Kakatiya, 13th century. 114 x 61 x 10 cm. State Archaeology Museum, Hyderabad (P 5499)
Crédits The Body in Indian Art
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-21.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 264k
Titre Fig. 14b. Virasati (memorial to a female warrior)
Légende Black basalt. Andhra Pradesh. Kakatiya, 13th century. 112 x 71 x 13 cm. State Archaeology Museum, Hyderabad (HM 88-51)
Crédits The Body in Indian Art
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-22.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Titre Fig. 15. “Subhas Chandra Bose’s Remarkable Offering”
Légende Offset Print “Published by Shyam Sunder Lal, Picture Merchant, Chowk, Cawnpore” c. 1940s. 16.5 x 13.5 inches. From the collection of Priya Paul
Crédits Priya Paul
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-23.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 207k
Titre Fig. 16a. Mallinatha
Légende Stone. Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. 12th century. 53 x 43 x 15.2 cm. Lucknow State Museum (J885)
Crédits The Body in Indian Art
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-24.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Fig. 16b. Mallinatha
Légende Stone. Unnao, Uttar Pradesh. 12th century. 53 x 43 x 15.2 cm. Lucknow State Museum (J885)
Crédits The Body in Indian Art
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-25.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 114k
Titre Fig. 17. Aftermath of the Mutiny in Secundrabagh, Lucknow
Légende Photograph by Felice Beato. Albumen Print. AD 1858. H: 25.6 cm; W. 29.1 cm. The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, New Delhi (ACP: 94.139.0001a)
Crédits The Alkazi Foundation for the Arts
URL http://books.openedition.org/cdf/docannexe/image/11337/img-26.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 164k

Auteur

Naman P. Ahuja is a curator and Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His studies on Indian art have explored the aesthetics of Indian visual culture, iconography and transculturalism in antiquity, as well as the legacy of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the modern period. Apart from various research papers, he has authored: Divine Presence: The Art of India and the Himalayas (Casa Asia and Five Continents Editions: Barcelona and Milan, 2003), The Making of the Modern Indian Artist-Craftsman: Devi Prasad (Routledge, 2011), The Body in Indian Art and Thought (Ludion, Antwerp, 2013), The Arts and Interiors of Rashtrapati Bhavan: Lutyens and Beyond (Publications Division, Delhi, 2016), India and the World: a history in nine stories (Delhi: Penguin, 2017) and more recently: The Art & Archaeology of Ancient India, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, November 2018.

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