Pankaj Saxena

Pankaj Saxena



1. Art, Museums, Meaning and Context What is Art? Hindu art is: •That which is Beautiful •That which is Meaningful •That which elevates your consciousness It is modern art which is contextless, meaningless and museumized. This is how and why.

2. Hindu art is always created in a context, with a story, and a motive. Almost all of ancient sculpture and painting were in temples or sacred places. Murals and reliefs were meant to be worshipped or at least viewed in a sacred context.

3. Most of the vigrahas (sculptures) are placed in a sacred direction appropriate for their divine attributes, as ordained in shastras (scriptures). Even the sculpture not meant for worship (erotic sculpture) has a context for the temple shows the entire universe.

4. Even architectural planning is full of meaning. Not a single piece of architecture, pillar, capital, pinnacle, eaves etc. is without context or meaning at a certain place. Even corners are negotiated with great care, overlapping cosmological story being told.

5. This is because art in a traditional society like Bharatavarsha was never just a ‘piece of enjoyment’. Yes it was beautiful, but it always had a higher purpose. And this feeling pervaded all that was sacred and mundane in daily life.

6. Coomaraswamy says: for a Hindu everything was art. He could not create an artifact and not make it beautiful. Aesthetics was not a separate discipline. It informed all life. Everything from a jug to a mula vigraha (icon of the deity in sanctum sanctorum) had context & meaning.

7. The place where an art ‘piece’ in traditional society is ‘displayed’ is also the place where it is worshipped. The place and reason of utility and aesthetics are one and the same. They are not separated or divorced from each other. And dharma is the context.

8. When the Christian European empires invaded these cultures and destroyed their temples and sacred spaces and artefacts because it disgusted their monotheistic sensibilities, these ‘pieces’ lost their context and meaning, especially in the hands of the invaders.

9. While a sculpture of Vishnu for example had a utility, meaning and purpose in a Hindu temple, in a western museum it was just a ‘piece of art’, to be admired for its skilled execution and nothing more. And this is why museum is an artificial and sterile place. @culturaltutor

10. Museum is western Judeo-Christian invention. Though most of the museums were created during the great colonial age, it is in Renaissance that we see the spirit taking birth. World’s first museums were Christianity’s way of displaying trophies of cultures it destroyed.

11. Museum is a culturally and physically sterilized and contextless place where art ‘pieces’ from various parts of the world are preserved, frozen in time, out of context, devoid of meaning and arrayed with a wide variety of unrelated artefacts.

12. It is no surprise that the museum culture was largely created during the great colonial age when the Christian conquistadors were destroying native cultures and civilizations all over the world and bringing back home ‘trophies’ and ‘souvenirs’.

13. The scale of destruction was so great that these colonial ‘trophies’ could only be housed in special places built for them – museums. Museums are meant to study dead cultures and civilizations. The vigraha of a Hindu temple becomes an ‘installation’ in a museum.

14. The prana (life) of these sculptures and art pieces is sucked out of them when they are displaced out of their context. And that is why museums seldom show the true meaning of what they display.

15. It is no wonder that modern scholarship on art is so far removed from the reality of the native culture and civilization that it is studying. Most of the ‘art works’ by great scholars are based entirely on the ‘display’ in a certain museum in the West.

16. Most of these scholars commenting and writing on these ‘art pieces’ have never even visited the temples and cultural space from where they were so cruelly snatched from. In a temple, it is the location, direction and tradition of the temple which gives meaning to the vigraha.

17. All that is lost in a museum. And most of the western art historians build entire theories and careers based on the disparate, sterile, meaningless, contextless museums in the West.

18. That is why most of them are so far removed from reality they mean nothing more than the ideology of the author who is penning it. They are as sterile as the 'installation' in a museum. ===

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