Tag Archives: HINDU ART

SHIVA & PARVATI, PRIMORDIAL POWERS OF GENDER

Shiva and Parvathi are the most portrayed and celebrated male an female couple in Hindu pantheon. Shiva presents the male cosmic power while Parvati (reincarnation of Shakti) constitutes the female cosmic power. Often Shiva takes the form of half Parvati and the other half himself (Ardhanari) symbolising the harmony and synonymity between the two gender-powers.

Marriage of Shiva and Parvati

Nandi as a vahana or vehicle of Shiva and Parvati is more a Dravidian Hindu concept whereas the horse as vehicle of the two deities is an Aryan depiction of their superiority. South Indian art and sculpture of Shiva & Parvati include Nandi as their vehicle whereas that of the northern India incorporate the the less traditional vehicle the horse.

 Shiva and Parvati remain the primordial powers of the world in Hinduism demonstrating gender as the basics of human life. The Lingam representing male force, and Yoni, the female power are both the concept of love and procreation taking their roots in Indus culture of the proto-Dravidians or the Pre-Aryans. The power of both the female and male  force is represented in the image of Ardharnishwara, an androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati. This concept of unified power of the male (Shiva) and the female (Parvati) takes its origin in the 9th and 10th centuries during the Chola period. One of the earliest images of Ardharnishwara from the 9th century AD was found in Sri Lanka and is displayed at the Colombo Museum demonstrating the Hindu influence on the adjacent island during the reign of the Raja Raja Cholan when Hindu culture reigned supreme in southern India . Incidentally the Hindu images unearthed at Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka constitute strong evidence for the Hindu influence in the island off the tip of south India.

The current Hinduism is a fusion of nature gods of the Aryans and the personified tribal gods of the Dravidians looking at the religion in a broader perspective. The Hinduism of southern India is more representative or mother or female guardian culture with innumerable female deities such as Shakti, Parvati, Meenakshi, Kali, Durga, Valli and scores of others. In the same tone the family aspect Hinduism is reflected in Shiva and Parvati, their son Ganesha, and the couple Vishnu and Lakshmi. While the latter predominate in Vaishnavism, dual Shiva and Parvati iconography is the hall mark of Shaivism, second only to Tandava (dance) of Shiva as Nataraja. The mythologies of these deities have provided the playing field for the artisans through their display of their art and skill in gifting us with Hindu Art and sculpture from the glorious past.

The Hindu iconographies such as Durga slaying Maheshasuramardini, Krishna stealing cheese, Kaliya serpent submitting to Krishna, Shiva courting Parvati, Vishnu holding Lakshmi and the Tandava dance of Shiva are not only awe inspiring for the Hindu devotees, but also an immeasurable pleasure for the eyes and souls for the connoisseurs of Hindu Art: to them the magic of Hindu art itself has become a religion.  

Hindu Art and ReligionExotic and authentic, rare and antique religious figurines and sculptures of Shiva and Parvati from Anton Sebastian Private Collection presented for sale by Antiques International

HINDUISM, JAINISM and birth of buddhism

Nandi, most venerated zoomorphic deity of Hindus next to Ganesha

Hinduism and Jainism are two of the oldest religions in the world lost in time due to their antiquity. The religious sculptures and art from their past reveal a complex, exotic and mythical aspects of these religions. A thousand gods generating ten thousand mythologies have been inspiration for Hindu Art for over a thousand years. These gods became personal deities in various names and forms all over India thus multiplying the myths. The Hindu Art that we are endowed with today is culmination of the imagination of Hindu devotees and artisans over millennia. The main portrayal of Shiva as Nataraja (Natyam; dance, raja; king) came from the Chola Period (ca 800 – 1100 AD) to become the most iconic sculpture in religious art. In more remote parts of India Shiva was a powerful tribal God offering protection to the Hindus with names such as Khadoban, Bhairava, Rudra and hundred more. Amongst the female Hindu deities Durga for protection from evil, Parvati for compassion, Sarasvati for prosperity and wealth are more popular. The mesogenic representation of Shiva and Parvati as one (Ardhanarishwara) is the ultimate not only in art but also in philosophy. Hindu Art, a heritage from Hindu faith has now become an art, sans religious borders across the world.

Jainism one of the oldest religions in the world is traditionally traced through a succession of twenty-four propagators of their faith known as tirthankaras, Rishabha being the first of them, and Mahavira the last.

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma was founded in the 5th century BC. Followers of Jainism are called “Jains”, a word derived from the Sanskrit word jina (victor) and connoting the path of victory in crossing over life’s stream of rebirths through an ethical and spiritual life. Jains trace their history through a succession of twenty-four victorious saviors and teachers known as Tirthankaras, with the first being Rishabhanatha, who is believed to have lived millions of years ago, and twenty-fourth being the Mahavira around 500 BCE. Jains believe that Jainism is an eternal dharma with the Tirthankaras guiding every cycle of the Jain cosmology.

The main religious premises of Jainism are ahimsa (“non-violence”), anekantavada (“many-sidedness”), aparigraha (“non-attachment”) and asceticism. Jain monastics renunciants and devout householders take five main vows known as vratas, outlined in their oldest surviving text, the Acaranga Sutra: ahimsa (“non-violence”), satya (“truth”), asteya (“not stealing”), brahmacharya (“celibacy or chastity”), and aparigraha(“non-attachment”). These principles have impacted Jain culture in many ways, such as leading to a predominantly vegetarian lifestyle that avoids harm to animals and their life cycles. Parasparopagraho Jivanam (“the function of souls is to help one another”) is the motto of Jainism. Namokar Mantra is the most common and basic prayer in Jainism.[5]

Jainism has two major ancient sub traditions, Digambaras and Svetambaras; and several smaller sub-traditions that emerged in the 2nd millennium CE. The Digambaras and Svetambaras have different views on ascetic practices, gender and which Jain texts can be considered canonical. Jain mendicants are found in all Jain sub-traditions, with laypersons (śrāvakas) supporting the mendicants’ spiritual pursuits with resources.

First bodily depiction of Budda on a Kushan Coin

As the preachers of ancient Hindu scripts who held title to the unwritten Vedas or incantations became king makers propagating the ritual of animal sacrifices and indulgences, a spiritual rebellion was born. Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as “The Buddha,” was born into a wealthy family as a prince in present-day Nepal in 5th century BC. Gautama was later moved by suffering in the world and then existing practice of Brahmins of the day decided to give up his lavish lifestyle and endure poverty, proposing happiness within one’s own mind.

However of all the ancient religions Jainism has best stayed close it’s roots of spiritual philosophy while Buddhism spread across the world mainly due to the efforts of King Asoka in 3rd century BC. Much later in the 4th to 8th century the Khmer kings being originally Hindus embraced Buddhism by a process of inclusion into Hinduism while still honoring the Hindu deities.

Coinage of Satavahana Empire

Indus Civilization 2500 BC – 1500 BC

Ganges Civilization 1500 BC – 400 BC

Mauryas (Asoka) 322 BC – 320 AD

Shungas 185 BC – 30 BC

Satavahanas (Satavhana) 100 BC – 250 AD

SATAVANA MAP

The Satavahana (Stavhanas) Empire was an Indian dynasty based from

SATAVANAS 100 BC ELEPHANT 1
Satavana Coin, Satlkarni I 100 BC, Anton Sebastian Private Collection

Dharanikota and Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh as well as Junnar (Pune) and Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra. The territory of the empire covered much of India from 230 BCE onward. Although there is some controversy about when the dynasty came to an end, the most liberal estimates suggest that it lasted about 450 years, until around 220 CE. The Satavahanas are credited for establishing peace in the country, resisting the onslaught of foreigners after the decline of Mauryan Empire.

The Stavhanas were vassals to the Mauryan dynasty until the decline of the latter. They are known for their patronage of Hinduism. The Stavhanas were early issuers of Indian state coinage struck with images of their rulers. They formed a cultural bridge and played a vital role in trade and the transfer of ideas and culture to and from the Indo-Gangetic Plain to the southern tip of India.

Satavahana Dynasty, Satkarni I, Copper Unit,
Satavahana Dynasty, Satkarni I, Copper Unit,, Anton Sebastian Private Collection

The Satavahanas are among the earliest Indian rulers to issue their own coins with portraits of their rulers, starting with king Gautamiputra Satakarni, a practice derived from that of the Western Kshatrapas he defeated, itself originating with the Indo-Greek kings to the northwest.

Thousands of lead, copper and potin Satavahana coins have been discovered in the Deccan region; a few gold and silver coins are also available. These coins do not feature uniform design or size, and suggest that multiple minting locations existed within the Satavahana territory, leading to regional differences in coinage.

The coin legends of the Satavahanas, in all areas and all periods, used a Prakrit dialect without exception. Some reverse coin legends are in Tamiland Telugu languages.

Several coins carry titles or matronyms that were common to multiple rulers (e.g. Satavahana, Satakarni, and Pulumavi), so the number of rulers attested by coinage cannot be determined with certainty. The names of 16 to 20 rulers appear on the various coins. Some of these rulers appear to be local elites rather than the Satavahana monarchs.

The Satavahana coins give unique indications as to their chronology, language, and even facial features (curly hair, long ears and strong lips). They issued mainly lead and copper coins; their portrait-style silver coins were usually struck over coins of the Western Kshatrapa kings. The Satavahana coins also display various traditional symbols, such as elephants, lions, horses and chaityas (stupas), as well as the “Ujjain symbol”, a cross with four circles at the end.

Rare-coins of Ancient India  from Antiques International 

Temple Tokens and the State


Hindu Temple Coins

Temple coins or tokens which depicted specific Hindu deities on the coins often included native script including date, name of the saint or the name of the temple and location, goes back centuries. Early on they were stamped and used as holy offerings, but by the 1800s they are produced for sale at holy sites and temples as a source of income for the temple and kept by devotees as holy tokens or even murthes. Some were made by fine jewellers and many in metal from Calcutta based metal shops. Some of the stamps were used through the 19th Century into modern era. Earlier in the 12th Century they were often minted in gold, mostly in South India as the Muslim rulers who controlled areas of Northern India forbade any such holy tokens which depicted a figure or Deva, or any human-like stamps such as depictions of saints and mystics. After World War II, Diwali tokens became popular, often in silver. These would depict Ganesha and Lakshmi. However, in the olden days, most of the temple coins depicted the great epics, especially from the Ramayana. Thus the term Ramatankas, they would be stamped with Sita-Ram and the beloved Hanuman. Coins of Lakshman, Bharata and Shatrughnawere were also made.In July of 2011, a treasure worth over 10 billion dollars (500 billion rupees) including such coins were found in the  vaults under the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram India, and there are more secret chambers which have been closed for over 150 years. This is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and built hundreds of years ago by the King of Travancore, but has origins back to the 6th Century, and has many treasures which RAMA AND SITA RAMTAKA DURBARare donations by devotees. It is considered one of the108  Divya Desams or Holy Abodes of Maha Vishnu. Thousands of gold coins and tokens were found here. Since Independence, a trust managed by the descendants of the Travancore Royal Family has managed the temple. However, India’s Supreme Court ordered that the temple valuables will be managed by the State. The actual value in materialistic terms of this temple exceed that of Tirupathi Temple in Andhra Pradesh which was thought to be the richest temple. This value of the treasures at the Vishnu temple is believed to actually exceed that of Tirupathi, and it is believed that in fact there are many other temples which have coins, jewellery and wealth of equal value that may tempt plunder by materialists and government both domestic and international – for example the 108 Vishnu Temples noted above.

Temple Tokens of India

The Ramayana Connection: Sri Lanka

The Sanskrit epic Rāmāyana is perhaps the most depicted epic in the world today. Some of the most exotic historic sites in India and the rest of the east, such as the  Ellora caves, Mahāvalipuram,  Cambodian temples, and several other places in Thailand portray Rāmāyana scenes and characters in their sculptures and paintings.  Its literary contents have continued to inspire artists and artesans to depict the Rāmāyana scenes in paintings, on stone and other media for sculptures. Consisting

of 24,000 verses, it is supposed to have been written around 250 to 300 BC, although the events described in it appear to be much earlier, around 1000 BC.  Although generally looked upon as a religious epic of the Hindus the contents in relation to Lanka reveal some contents that may be historic.

Many other religious beliefs to stake a claim to Lanka, the present Sri Lanka. To the Mohammedans it was the paradise of Adam and Eve. One Islamic legend says that when Adam and Eve were cast out of the paradise, Adam fell on the island of Ceylon, and Eve near Jeddah, the port of Mecca. They later met each other and lived in Ceylon. Adam’s Peak is a legacy of this legend.

For the Buddhists, it was the island chosen for salvation of Rakshas and Nagas by the Buddha.  With such a variety of claims it is not entirely surprising to see Lanka having a multitude of ancient names. The Island’s ancient name, Lanka (Laka or Laksha, thousands) is supposed to be derived from the Sanskrit language, to refer to a multitude of islands around its western coast. In the Pandiyan Saṅgam  literature, the southern region in the peninsula is referred to as MaveIlaṅkai (great Lanka), while Lanka, known for its supply of rice to the Tamil kingdom, is referred to as Ilaṅkai. The Sinhalese called the island Sīhala, after the Siṃha (lion) of the Vijaya legend. This name was corrupted to Sinhaladipa, and became the Serendib of the Arabs around the 2nd century AD. During the colonial period Sieladipa became Ceilão, and later ‘Zeilan’, and ‘Ceylon’ under the Dutch and British.

To the Hindus, it was the scene of the epic Rāmāyana battle where Rāma and Rāvaṇa fought over Sītā. The Hindu epic poem, Rāmāyana refers to the island as Ilaṅkai, the most antiquated name for the island. Many holy places in the island are implied in the Rāmāyana. Rāma is said to have prayed for his victory over Rāvaṇa, at the shrine for Siva at Muniswaram (Tamil: mun, ancient or before, Īśvara, Hindu god) in the Chilaw district. The narrow causeway between Ramēśvaram (Hindu gods: Rāma, Īśvara,) in India and Talaimannar served as the crossing   point for Rāma   before   his battle with the Lankan  king Rāvaṇa, and we know that this is geographically true. Dandaka forest, the northernmost wildernes of South India (Penninsular India) is where the first conflict between Rama (Aryan) and Surpaanakai, the sister of king Rāvaṇa (Dravidian), began. The legend in many ways is a rerun of the Aryan invasion that occurred thousand years previously in the Indus which probably captured the imagination of Valmiki.

Following the Rig Veda of the Aryans (c 1400 BC), the next earliest quasi historic document that we can find is the Rāmāyana. The classical historian and Nobel Prize winner in Literature, Theodor Mommsen (1817-1910) quotes: “Imagination, mother of all poetry, is likewise mother of all history.” In the epic a divine monkey from the tribe of Vānarar comes to the island of Ilaṅkai  in search of  Rāma’s wife, who was abducted by  Rāvaṇa, the king of Lanka. Shortly before entering Lanka he stands on Pavalamalai (Pearl Mountain) near Lanka, and observes the island which is regarded as a paradise. In the Kamba Rāmāyanam, a Tamil version of the Rāmāyana written later in the 12th century AD, the divine city of Lanka was built by the architect of God. Its palaces reached for the skies, with shining precious stones embedded in gold. Divine women of the giant race (Rākṣasas) and divine   lords     were     serving  giants    like King Rāvaṇa. According to Kambar’s description Wind and  God       could     enter              the        city only with Rāvaṇa’s consent; such   was the the defence and           glory of Lanka.  Men and women happily lived here without the slightest care. Only happy people were seen about, and Hahnuman could not see any signs of discontent as he sifted through Lanka looking for Sītā.

The episode on war, the Uttara- kāṇḍa in the classic, between the Lankan Dravidian king and the Aryan king of India, constitutes 68 chapters out of a total of 537 chapters, in six books. Although  in these verses the Rāmāyana narrates unlikely supernatural feats such as            the flight of Hahnuman, a monkey god over Lanka,  some geographical framework such as the Rama’s Bridge is noted. Rāma and Sītā’s legend  still lives on in Sri Lanka    through several  place-names: Sītāvaka in the

Sitavaka Temple in Nuwara Eliya

Avissawella district where Sītā is believed to have been held in captivity: Sītākoṭuva, near           Gurulupota in Minipe, on         the        Kandy-Mahiyangana road where Sītā       is supposed to   have     been     initially held      by the        Lankan  king:     Rāvaṇa,              Älla,      in Ella              (near     Badulla), a scenic cave  behind  waterfalls              where   Rāvaṇa hid Sītā: Ariṣṭa   mountain Riṭigala) where Hahnuman is       said       to          have      dumped the earth containing medical      herbs from Himalayas: MunĪśvaram      where   Rāma    prayed  for his   victory:              Sītā       Amman Kovil, near Hakgala Gardens, where Hahnuman found Sītā,     and the Rāma’s Bridge (Adam’s              bridge)  built      by Hahnuman for             Rāma to cross over to Lanka.

HINDU ART & MYTHOLOGY

Gods on Coins & Stamps

BOODOO
First depiction of Buddha ca 200 AD

There are more animals and mortals depicted on coins than Gods.  Yet religion is the oldest culture in the world. Kushan kings of India were the first represent gods incuding Shiva and Buddha in their coins as early as 100 to 300 AD. 

GOLD SHIVA 1
Shiva with Nandi, King Kanishka 100 AD, gold coin from Anton Sebastian Private Collectiom

Religion and deities depicted on coins are construed by some pious people as effacing the value of their gods. Coins are a part of everyday life for everybody, and religious coins can also be a reminder to the presence  of god in daily life. In a puritan’s sense the use of religious coins in monetary transactions could mean that god looks over honesty and integrity when his image is used. 

The coins have their own caste system or status too, the poorest being cooper or aluminium or copper, silver for the gentry, and gold for the kings and the wealthy.

NATARAJA STAMP
Shiva as Natarah

Since late  19th century there came a new forum to represent gods in daily life: the postage stamps. The expression of gods on stamps and coins also contributed to philatelic and numismatic art in daily life.

Gods on Coins and Stamps

French India, the last of the Maritime Powers to reach India

France was the last of the major European maritime powers of the 17th century to take a foot-hold in East India trade. Six decades after the foundation of the English and Dutch East India companies (in 1600 and 1602 respectively), and at a time when both companies were profiting on the shores of India, the French still did not have a viable trading company or a single permanent establishment in the East.

FRENCH PONDICERY 1
French India – Indie Francaise 1 Copper Doudou – ca 1715-1835

FRENCH INDIA 1892
Établissements français dans l’Inde 1892

French India, formally the Établissements français dans l’Inde (“French establishments in India”), was a French colony comprising geographically separate enclaves on the Indian subcontinent. The possessions were originally acquired by the French East India Company beginning in the second half of the 17th century, and were de facto incorporated into the Union of India in 1950 and 1954. The French establishments included Pondichéry, Karikal and Yanaon on the Coromandel Coast, Mahé on the Malabar Coast and Chandernagor in Bengal. French India also included several loges (“lodges”, subsidiary trading stations) in other towns, but after 1816 the loges had little commercial importance and the towns to which they were attached came under British administration.

By 1950, the total area measured 510 km2 (200 sq miles), of which 293 km2 (113 sq miles) belonged to the territory of Pondichéry. In 1936, the population of the colony totaled 298,851 inhabitants, of which 63% FRENCH INDIA 1914(187,870) lived in the territory of Pondichéry

RARE COINS OF INDIA