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St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art: Demonstrating Hindu Deities in Scotland

By Shubhi Mangla

The St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow, Scotland represents the major religions of the world through famous artworks and religious objects. It is known to be the sole public museum in the world which is entirely dedicated to its subject. The museum displays the importance of religion in the lives of people across time. It is reported to host religious talks regularly.

The St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art Glasgow, Scotland Image: Wikimedia commons
 St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art Glasgow, Scotland
Image: Wikimedia commons

The museum is situated in the heart of Glasgow, in Cathedral Square and was built in 1993. The main floor of the museum holds the Gallery of Religious Art which has artworks related to different world religions ranging from stained glass windows of churches to sculptures of Hindu deities to a Turkish rug. The next wing holds the Gallery of Religious Life, consisting of items related to faith and duties. It includes Egyptian sarcophagus and monastic robes of various missionaries. The second floor is devoted to the history of Scotland itself. It focuses on six major religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, Judaism and Islam). Outside the museum, there is Britain’s Zen Garden.

The Museum is named after Glasgow’s patron Saint Mungo, who brought Christianity to Scotland in the 6th century.

Displaying Hinduism

The museum has a good collection of artifacts related to Hinduism. It has a total of 207 religious objects (dating from 1200 BC to present) pertaining to Hindu deities. They comprise of paintings, clothing and textiles, statues, works on paper, plaques, door handling, a scroll, a mask, offering tray and other related objects. There are five large and vested clay paintings of Goddess Durga with her four children which were donated by the Glasgow Durga Puja Committee. There are bronze paintings of Lord Krishna, Vishnu and various mother Goddesses. It also has small miniature paintings depicting the life of Krishna and Goddess Radha. Other items include a large cast bronze image of Shiva, a bull deity Nandi, a stone embossment of Surya (the Sun God) and a small portable sculpture of Hanuman ( the monkey God).This sculpture of Lord Shiva (main image) dates back to the 1970s. It depicts Shiva as Natraj or ‘Lord of Dance’. It is originated in Southern India.

Related article: Santa Barbara Museum showcasing Hindu gods

According to collections.glasgowmuseums.com, “The sculpture is hollow cast using a lost wax casting technique. The composition of the metal alloys used in Southern Indian casting varies but Glasgow’s Shiva is made of a mixture similar to that of gunmetal. In contrast to the smaller solid cast icons destined for temple worship, the Shiva as Nataraja in St.Mungo’s Museum does not have incised pupils and as a hollow cast image made in the 1970s was probably created for ornamental use. However, it is still regarded as a religious icon to Glasgow’s Hindu community who asked that the statue be raised on a stone plinth as a mark of respect”. This sculpture was brought to the museum for display in 1993, just after a month of the opening of St. Mungo Museum. A person intentionally caused damage to the sculpture by pushing it over. Till 2008, Shiva was displayed behind a protective glass barrier but the restoration work was done and it is open for display once again.

Lord Ganesha Image: collections.glasgowmuseums.com/
Sculpture of Lord Ganesha
Image: collections.glasgowmuseums.com/

The sculpture of Ganesha is carved from wood and then painted. It was imported from India in 1992.

Baby Krishna Image: collections.glasgowmuseums.com/
Baby Krishna
Image: collections.glasgowmuseums.com/

“Bronze baby Krishna in crawling position holding a butter ball. The head is raised and the eyes are inlaid with bone. It is marked with the tiny foot of Vishnu, has a belly button, genitals and long ears”

Ivory carving of Goddess Durga Image: collections.glasgowmuseums.com
Ivory carving of Goddess Durga
Image: collections.glasgowmuseums.com

This Indian artifact was purchased at the Glasgow International Exhibition, 1888. It is depicting Goddess Durga conquering Malushashura carved in ivory.

Sun God, Surya Image: collections.glasgowmuseums.com
Sun God, Surya
Image: collections.glasgowmuseums.com

This articfact represents Surya, God of Sun with his wives and attendants. It is an ancient stele, probably from Bihar and made in the 10th century. It is carved from black chloride.

Commending the efforts of the St Munto Museum of Religious Life and Art in promoting and showcasing Hindu artifacts, Hindu Statesman, Rajan Zed said that art had a long and rich tradition in Hinduism and ancient Sanskrit literature talked about religious paintings of deities on wood or cloth.

Reference: 

Glasgow Museum Collections

Shubhi Mangla is an intern at Newsgram and a student of Journalism & Mass Communication in New Delhi. Twitter @shubhi_mangla

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