“Perhaps Maqbool Fida Husain could take some solace in the knowledge that in his being lambasted for painting Hindu goddesses, he has joined the ranks of one of the greatest of Renaissance artists, Michelangelo, whose painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in 1512 left the world speechless with astonishment…” More here

7 Responses to Master strokes

  1. Meghan says:

    Raza, what are your thoughts on nudity in paintings?

  2. Manas says:

    People here say that Hussain’s painting of Hindu gods are a plot by Muslims to derogate Hindu gods.

    As a Muslim, I don’t think one should paint false gods etc. Nor should one hurt other’s religious sentiments. Not even for art’s sake.

    However, I don’t know very well what is Islam’s stand on portrayal of humans in art. I am unwilling to take popular blabber as authoritative. (They could be right. Very often they are not.)

  3. Raza Rumi says:

    Gayatri Sinha in the Outlook writes:

    “Long before Baywatch and Sex In The City competed with Bollywood for TRPs, India had celebrated the erotic, and more specifically the erotic divine feminine form. Indian institutions have unabashedly celebrated this legacy, putting it out in the public domain. Visitors to the Chennai museum will see semi-clothed Chola devis; those who go to the Indian Museum, Calcutta, will see the erotically suggestive Sudarshana and Chandra yakshis that date to Bharhut (2nd century BC); and in New Delhi’s National Museum, they can admire the nude bathing salabhanjikas of the Kushana period (3rd century BC). From Buddhist stupa remains at Sanghol in Punjab to Amravati on the banks of the Krishna, from the Konarak temple in Orissa to the Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, the divine voluptuous feminine form as devi, yakshi, salabhanjika or vrikshaka has ruled the Indian artistic imagination.

    Textual descriptions are even more abundant. Both the Devi Mahatmayam in the Markandeya Purana (circa 5th century) and Shankara’s Saundaryalahiri (circa 8th century), among the cornerstone texts for Devi worship, extol the beauty and physical abundance of the great goddess in head to toe descriptions. The Srimad Devi Bhagavat Purana (12th century), and the Kalika Purana (14th century) are rich narratives of the Parvati-Durga-Kali myths. One of them holds that parts of the body of the goddess fell on different places in India, rendering them shakti peethas or temple sites at which each part is worshipped. The yonipeeth at Kamakhya in Guwahati, where her vagina fell, is one of the most important such sites, and continues to attract thousands of pilgrims. In the Vaishnava tradition, the erotic divine female appears in the poetry of Jaidev, Bihari and Keshavadas, and in the efflorescence of north Indian miniature painting.

    The influence of schools like Amravati with its exquisite depictions of nude celestial beings (now also housed in the British Museum) extended to Ceylon and Southeast Asia. Not even a century of Victorian prudery could diminish the recognition of this unfettered tradition in Buddhist, Jain and Hindu art.

    So why, in the 21st century, have we become so prudish, so intolerant about freedom of artistic expression? So quick to take offence where none is meant? It is a sad irony that as our economy liberalises, our minds seem to become more closed and narrow. Obviously, there is a need to make a difference between sacred and secular spaces as sites for art, for the violation of one can be as culturally damaging as the other. But if we allow incidents such as the one at Baroda to dictate the norms and limits of artistic licence, it may well be that the only places where we can see the celebrated freedom of Indian artistic expression is in our museums and temples, while the contemporary artist struggles against acts of censorship and hooliganism.”


  4. Manas says:

    All these are true, Raja. But pagan religions change with time. With the prevailing environment(social order etc.), people ambitions and imagination they change. What was good in pagan religion two thousand years before is not good anymore.

    Take beef as an example. In ancient times, Aryans used to eat beef. Subsequently it was banned for the protection of the cows so that farming do not suffer. Later it became religion.

    No modern Hindu temple depicts the kind of pictures that ancient ones did. This happened in the long influence over Indian art and culture by Islamic and Christian traditions.

    Nude figures at the temple were acceptable in the past. Not now.

  5. Raza Rumi says:

    Manas: thanks for the comment and your valuable comments. I take your point and please don’t think that I am arguing for promotion of nudity 🙂
    All I am saying is that there is a tradition as noted by some art critics. Further, MFH has offended some sensibilities but that has hardly to do with him being a Muslim. He is just an eccentric old artist and prosecuting a 91 year old man is not exactly a humane thing. He has apologized and this should be accepted and he should be allowed to return to his homeland to live his last few years in peace!
    It is a human appeal noting his stature and his contribution to Indian, South Asian and global art.

  6. I thought I must give up on life
    And turn into a stone;
    The desert wind quite suited me:
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    I thought it would be dumb to try
    To want something again;
    Wanting turns to need, and then
    Transmogrifies to pain.

    I laughed at people still in love
    Who trusted someone’s word;
    To make my happiness depend
    On faith seemed quite absurd.

    I lay alone and wonder-struck,
    Sleepless in my bed,
    Still numb, still dumb, still ice, ice cold,
    Not knowing I was dead.

    And then you came and shone upon
    My meadow full of snow,
    And saw the flowers only love
    Could recognize and grow;

    And made me feel so beautiful
    I shed my cold, cold skin,
    And opened up my heart to you,
    And, fearful, let you in.

    And now, my dear, I am in love,
    With all that I’ve been through.
    I know the worst of all the world,
    And I believe in you

  7. Alvi says:

    Manas: Are there not temples in India where even today likings of an erected human penis are placed on a pedestals in vertical position for thousands of women seeking fertility to worship. BBC has ran an article on that with pictures.

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