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

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Sculpture (representative Image), Wikimedia
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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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Right of Nature: Are Rivers Living Beings?

Should rivers be considered Living Entities?

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Right of Nature
Many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

By Dr. Bharti Raizada, Chicago

Science says that water bodies are not living entities, as water does not need food, does not grow, and reproduce. Water is required for life, but in itself it is nonliving.

However, many cultures across the globe believe that rivers are living beings or Gods/Goddesses and they just take the form of water bodies.

The Maori tribe in New Zealand considers the Whanganui River as their ancestor and the Maori people fought to get it a legal status as a living being. In 2017, a court in New Zealand gave this river the status of living being and same rights as humans, to protect it from pollution. Thus, now if someone pollutes in it then it is considered equivalent to harming a human.

ALSO READ: Worshiping mother nature part of our tradition: Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Right of Nature
Rivers are sacred in many religions, including Hinduism. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

Rivers are sacred in Hinduism also. Hindus believe that the Ganga descended from heaven and call her Ganga Maa. A few days after New Zealand’s court decision, Uttarakhand high court in India gave the Ganga and Yamuna rivers and their tributaries the status of living human entities. The Court-appointed three officials as legal custodians. However, the court did not clarify many aspects related to this decision.

After this verdict some of the questions, which naturally came to mind, were:

Can Hindus still do rituals of flowing ashes, leaves, flowers, diyas in river or no? Can a dam be built on the river after this judgment? If some damage, to a person, animal, plants, or property, occurs because of river e.g. overflow, hurricanes, flooding etc., how the river will pay the liabilities? What if all rivers, oceans, ponds etc. are given the status of living beings? Will drinking water from river become a crime? What about taking water and using it for routine needs,  agriculture or building structures? Will it be illegal? If a child throws a stone in water, will it be a criminal act? Will fishing be considered stealing? What about boating? If someone is using heat near water and water evaporates, is it equal to taking the body part of a human being? What about taking a bath in the river?

Right of Nature
If the river gets a living status, as human, then we cannot use it for anything without its permission, so everyone has to stop touching the water. Image courtesy: Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: Decoding supernatural: What is the nature of entities and gods who influence human behavior

Other queries, which arise, are:

Will animals and plants get the same status? What if you kill an ant or a chicken etc. or cut a tree? Will all animals and plants get a legal custodian?

Where is all the waste supposed to go? It has to go somewhere back in nature, right?

Uttrakhand state government challenged the judgement in Supreme Court and the latter reversed the judgment.

Right of Nature
So where do we stand? In my opinion, granting living status to nature is a different thing than giving protected status or preserving nature. Image by Dr. Bharti Raizada

ALSO READ: How nature destroys the negative tendencies in a positive manner

Ecuador’s constitution recognized the Right of Nature to exist, specifically Vilcabamba river, in 2008.

Then Bolivia passed the law of the right of mother earth and granted Nature equal rights as humans.

Many communities in the U.S.A. passed the Right of Nature law.

These laws are creating a dilemma or quandary also, as people need to use these resources. We cannot live without using natural resources. However, there is a difference between using natural resources and afflicting or destroying these. So, please use natural resources very diligently. Try not to vitiate nature.

On World Water Day (March 22), please start taking care of rivers, so that there is no need for future celebrations. It should not be a one-day celebration anyway, we should scrupulously look out for nature all the time.

Dr. Raizada is a practicing anesthesiologist.