Category: hinduism

Dancers perform a Lakhon play. This is a Thai genre of dance-drama, where stories are told through dance. Lakhons may illustrate the Hindu epic Ramakien,
the stories of the Hindu god Krishna, ancient Buddhist Jataka stories, or folk-tales.

Emperor Akbar ruled the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605. When he came to the throne, he confronted a problem that had plagued his predecessors: how to be a Muslim ruler over a majority-Hindu nation, that also had substantial numbers of various other religions including Buddhism and Jainism. He eventually came to believe that no religion could have pre-eminence. In fact, he was not even sure that any religion was “the truth” but were all humanity’s imperfect interpretations. The logical conclusion is that all subjects of his empire should be free to practice whatever religion they wished.

Akbar began to hold conferences weekly, with wise men from all faiths (no known women, though). He would apply their wisdom to questions of state. He slowly took over spiritual leadership, even getting the Muslim clergy to pronounce a fatwa (judgement) that as emperor, Akbar could adjudicate any dispute between religious authorities – even overruling the Qur’an if necessary for the public interest.

Legally, Akbar made two big changes. He abolished the hated tax levied on the Hindu majority, the jizya, the “contribution for not being put to death”. He also created a private faith for the elite. It was not a new religion, per se. It was a kind of Sufi system for the rulers, with 10 cardinal virtues, the essence of which was promoting tolerance. Akbar combined aspects of different faiths, borrowing from all the religions of his empire, to create an ethical code that he wished his inner circle to follow. He called this the Din i-Ilahi, or “Worship of God.” While it has been accused of being a pick-and-mix religion, Akbar did not proclaim it a religion, and he remained a Muslim all his life.

The Din i-Ilahi died with Akbar in 1605, and the jizya was reintroduced by Akbar’s great-grandson Aurangzeb in 1679.

Revered from the soaring Himalayan mountains in the north to the southernmost tip of India, Devi is the force that animates all living things. Her power manifests itself in every aspect of the natural world, including trees, water, and rocks. Devi also vitalizes believers, strengthening their hearts during times of adversity.

This particular sandstone sculpture of Devi was crafted sometime around 

975 to 1000 CE. She gazes at the viewer,  who is supposed to gaze back. Thus this Devi can bestow a “darshan” — a sacred gaze exchanged with the deity during worship.

SHIVA: 

SHIVA (or Siva) is one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon and, along with Brahma and Vishnu, is considered a member of the holy trinity (trimurti) of Hinduism. A complex character, he may represent goodness, benevolence and serve as the Protector but he also has a darker side as the leader of evil spirits, ghosts and vampires and as the master of thieves, villains and beggars. He is also associated with Time, and particularly as the destroyer of all things. Nevertheless, Shiva is also associated with creation. In Hinduism, the universe is thought to regenerate in cycles (every 2,160,000,000 years). Shiva destroys the universe at the end of each cycle which then allows for a new Creation. Shiva is also the great ascetic, abstaining from all forms of indulgence and pleasure, concentrating rather on meditation as a means to find perfect happiness. He is the most important Hindu god for the Shaivism sect, the patron of Yogis and Brahmins, and also the protector of the Vedas, the sacred texts.

Shiva’s wife was Parvati, often incarnated as Kali and Durga. She was in fact a reincarnation of Sati (or Dakshayani), the daughter of the god Daksha. Daksha did not approve of Sati’s marriage to Shiva and even went further and held a special sacrificial ceremony to all the gods except Shiva. Outraged at this slight, Sati threw herself on the sacrificial fire. Shiva reacted to this tragedy by creating two demons (Virabhadra and Rudrakali) from his hair who wreaked havoc on the ceremony and beheaded Daksha. The other gods appealed to Shiva to end the violence and, complying, he brought Daksha back to life but with the head of a ram (or goat). Sati was eventually reincarnated as Parvati in her next life and she re-married Shiva.

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Sandwiched between the decline of one great empire, and the rise of another, the Maratha Empire lasted just under 150 years. Here’s the story of those 150 years.

But wait, you’re thinking – Lakshmi is a Hindu goddess, right? She is, the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity and the wife of Vishnu.

But this particular Lakshmi figurine was found in the ruins of Pompeii. It is beautiful proof of the trade links between the Roman Empire and the other great civilizations of their day.

The Indian theatre form Kathakali got pretty long and pretty crazy

This copper female figure, from the eastern Indian region of West Bengal, is almost certainly Radha, lover of the god Krishna. She was a human woman who devoted herself completely to her god, Krishna, and as a result was made a goddess, an ideal for Krishna devotees to follow. This figure likely sat in a shrine to be adorned by adoring devotees. Her worn face testifies to her many years of use, which slowly softened her features. Circa 1500s CE.

Courtesy of the Walters Art Gallery.

The first temple in the world made out of granite is the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India. The sacred heart of the temple, the towering shikhara (“mountain peak”) is made from a single 80-ton piece of granite. 

Amazingly, the temple was built in just eight years! Rajaraja Chola I, emperor of the Chola Empire, ordered Brihadeeswarar built in 1002 CE to fulfil a command that came in a dream. It was finished by 1010 CE. Which means Brihadeeswarar Temple recently had it’s 1000th birthday