Stone Figure of Brahma – Art History

Stone Figure of Brahma

Stone Figure of Brahma

Hinduism is the one religion with no single founder but with a lot of origins mixed and complex. Religion contains a lot of architecture and sculpture which forms the basis of art. Each work of art has a symbolic meaning up from even the small details. The paper would explore the Hindu religion from the viewpoint of its famous gods namely Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma with a more specific focus on Brahma and a more profound explanation of the art piece.

The Hindu religion practices pantheism. This is because they have numerous gods with the belief that the universe is controlled by a spirit. For instance, Brahman is regarded as unknowable for its pure nature both being and intelligence wise. For the religion, the human senses can detect Brahman because all spiritual things ultimately would reflect Brahman. The description for it is the ultimate reality that exists in many forms and is both female, male, and even animal(Napa, Deekshah, and shah n.p). Brahman is referred to as the Trimurti, which represents three gods with three functions namely Shiva, the destroyer of life, Brahma, the source of creation, and lastly Vishnu who brings harmony in all creation.

The God Shiva is regarded as the destroyer of life, and a source of good and evil. Despite being a destroyer, he also recreates life. Shiva is regarded as Nataraja in other words the Lord of the Dance as shown from the sculpture. The sculpture depicts Shiva’s body as graceful and sleek and stands uprightly. The entire form is to show the embodiment of eternal stillness due to the balanced pose and cosmic energy. The middle of the forehead has a third eye which shows divine wisdom and the ultimate power is depicted by the multiple arms. Shiva forms one of the primary avatars of Brahman.

Vishnu symbolizes preservation, harmony and is in charge of preserving the law of the Vedas. The main role of Vishnu however is to protect humans and to bring order to the world. Vishnu possesses superhuman strength and stamina as well as plus power to alternately manipulate energies in the world(Thompson, Celeste, and Srivatsa n.p). As depicted from his role, he only appears during troubled times to restore order by balancing good and evil.

Brahma is regarded as the creator of Hindu gods as well as the bearer of wisdom. He is part of the trinity inclusive of Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. Brahma came up with The Vedas, which is the oldest and holiest part of the Hindu scriptures. He is not Brahman as that is a general term for the Supreme being. His popularity however is not that common as compared to Vishnu and Shiva. He is said to preside over Brahmaloka, a universe that has all the earth’s splendors and other worlds and after 100 years which is Brahmas lifespan, his death is accompanied by a reborn and creation repeats a whole.

From the sculpture of this god, the detail is unique as it shows three faces yet has four heads making him see the deeds of all the creatures. The four heads have a symbolic meaning of four directions, four Vedas, the four Maha Yugas, and fourfold social order. Brahma is shown having four arms, holding a bow, book, prayer beads, and an alms bowl. At times he may be seated or even standing on either a lotus throne or his mount which is a goose. He is shown to have a long white beard and each of the heads reciting the four Vedas.

Brahmas beard is a symbol of his extended duration or rather existence since the beginning of time. His arms bear no weapon which distinguishes him from other Hindu gods. One of his hands holding a spoon is a symbol of a sacrificial pyre while pouring out holy oil. This illuminates his role as the god of sacrifices. A water pot being held in another hand depicts the significance of water and its sole purpose in creation. He keeps track of time by holding a string of rosary beads, and sitting on a lotus throne which represents the earth and his red color is a sign of ultimate power.

Several myths exist on Brahmas origin however the most prominent one is he was self-born. The other story is that Brahma hatched from a golden egg that was floating and the other one was that he was born out of a lotus that grew from Vishnu’s navel. Brahma has the role of bestowing knowledge to all human beings and gods. His greatest contribution is said to be creating gods even powerful than himself. Brahma is also regarded as a spiritual teacher. Brahma is no longer worshipped today however he still maintains the status as the creator. The story behind it is that he created a woman named Shatarupa to assist in his work of creation. Brahma became infatuated with her beauty and gazed everywhere she went which made Shatarupa turn from his gaze till she started changing her form. Brahma developed the fourth head, and as Shatarupa tried her best to avoid Brahma, he sprouted a fifth head on top of it all. Lord Shiva decided to admonish Brahma for his behavior and chopped off his fifth head for his lustful behavior. Shiva’s curse was for Brahma not to be worshipped again. It’s said that since then, Brahma has had to recite the four Vedas one from each of the four heads as a sign of repentance.

Brahma is said to have firstborn sons born of the mind namely Sanaka, Sanatana, Sananadana, and Sanatkumara. The four Kumaras were born of the mind rather than the body and they refused to procreate. The sons decided to devote themselves to celibacy and even joined Vishnu. This made Brahma opt to create other ten sons from his mind also and are the ones regarded as the fathers of the human race. Brahma is shown to ride on a swan and this divine creature has the virtue of separating milk and water constituents which is an indication that one should learn to distinguish good from evil. His companion is Saraswati the goddess of learning, wisdom and in charge of the arts like music(Basham and Llewellyn n.p). In some traditions, it was believed that she was the first wife of Vishnu. Saraswati is considered as the embodiment of Brahmas power and the source of energy that drives his actions.

For the artwork, the artist’s goal was never to produce an illusion or recreate reality using a set of objects rather the goal was having an idealized form, and convey an ideal with style. A comparison of Hindu art can be related to the Buddhist deity. For Buddhists, just like Hinduism believe that humans are usually reincarnated into an endless cycle of suffering, death as they are actions of the past lives. This can only be escaped when Nirvana is attained to transform into the eternal realm from the material world. The Buddha regarded as Sakyamuni was represented by a set of symbols but not as a human. One symbol was the stupa which was the sign of death and attainment of the Nirvana. In the early 6th century, a statue was developed to represent a holy being rather than just a specific person. The sculpture shows a perfect oval face, with sheer clothing, tall brows, a sensual mouth, and downcast eyes all represent the transcendent nature. However, Buddhism does not speak of the gods that are central to the Hindu faith.

The Hindu religion places their gods integral to their faith with a compilation of many traditions and philosophies. Brahma has played a central part in mythological stories explaining life’s mysteries and creation stories and as part of an icon in Hindu sculptures. For the Buddhists, the belief is that life is endless, and do not believe in a personal god.

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