Religious icons have been a contested terrain across the world. Their implications and understanding travel further than the artistic or the aesthetic and inform contemporary preoccupations.This book traces the lives of religious sculptures beyond the moment of their creation. It lays bare their purpose and evolution by contextualising them in their original architectural or ritual setting while also following their displacement. The work examines how these images may have moved during different spates of temple renovation and acquired new identities by being relocated either within sacred precincts or in private collections and museums, art markets or even desecrated and lost.
The book highlights contentious issues in Indian archaeology such as renegotiating identities of religious images, reuse and sharing of sacred space by adherents of different faiths, rebuilding of temples and consequent reinvention of these sites. The author also engages with postcolonial debates surrounding history writing and knowledge creation in British India and how colonial archaeology, archival practices, official surveys and institutionalisation of museums has influenced the current understanding of religion, sacred space and religious icons. In doing so it bridges the historiographical divide between the ancient and the modern as well as socio-religious practices and their institutional memory and preservation.
Drawn from a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary study of religious sculptures, classical texts, colonial archival records, British travelogues, official correspondences and fieldwork, the book will interest scholars and researchers of history, archaeology, religion, art history, museums studies, South Asian studies and Buddhist studies.
Table of Contents
List of figures. List of tables. Preface. Introduction Part I: The Making of Museum Collections 1. Creating Identities 2. Making of Museums Part II: The Icon in Context 3. Sacred Sites 4. The Umā Mahesìvaramurti 5. Shifting Centres 6. Conclusion: From Sacred Icons to Objet d’art. Glossary. Bibliography. Index
Salila Kulshreshtha is an independent researcher currently based in Dubai. She has taught Art History, History and Humanities in Mumbai at Rizvi College of Architecture and Indian Education Society’s College of Architecture and in the USA at the Old Dominion University and Virginia Wesleyan College. She secured her PhD in History from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. Her doctoral research focuses on how the spatial relocation of sacred sculptures brings about a change in their identity and ritual purpose. She has worked on issues of urban heritage and heritage education with INTACH and with the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum. Her forthcoming publications include Removable Heritage: Nalanda Beyond the Mahavihara and Between Shrines and Monuments: Heritage of Sacred Spaces in South Bihar. She has also published with the online journal wire.in. Her research interests include religious iconography, afterlives of shrines, colonial archaeology and the making of museums in South Asia.
'From Temple to Museum, a study based on rigorous field work south of the Ganga in Bihar, provides critical insight into the sculptural production of this richly interesting area, one with a complex history not only in antiquity but also during colonial and more recent times. Especially important in this region, perhaps best known for its Buddhist material, is the Uma-Maheshvara imagery that abounds, even at Buddhist sites, which Salila Kulshreshtha so effectively contextualizes.'
Frederick M. Asher, Professor, Department of Art History, University of Minnesota, USA