Friday 13 October
Edmund Capon, director
9.45 Introduction to Exhibition
Jackie Menzies and Jim Masselos
The exhibition Goddess, Divine Energy is arranged thematically, starting from early goddesses, moving through goddesses in Hinduism to goddesses in Buddhism. Between the Hindu and Buddhist sections is a section looking at yantras and the narrative of the subtle body. Jackie gives an overview of these sections, focusing on some of the major works in the exhibition. Jim follows with a presentation on the goddess and partner, using selected images from
10.30 Goddesses in the Vedas
A unique feature of Vedic religion as expressed in the Rigveda, the oldest sacred text of the Hindus, is the worship of deities in pairs of the same gender. While Vedic goddesses are usually worshipped as single deities, when a goddess is addressed together with another deity, the pair often comprises two females. In this respect the Vedic deities are clearly distinguished from the well known divine couples of male gods with their female consorts that have had the most prominent position in the Hindu pantheon since the post-Vedic period.
11.00 Sexual imagery in early Indian art: syncretism and the divine androgyne John Guy
The explicitly sexual dimension in the representation of gods in northern India in the early centuries BCE is a reflection of a struggle to create icons that reflected that which is inherently concealed to the mundane world. A recurring theme in the great collection of myths which constitute the Indian cosmogony is sexual ambiguity and the need to explain the pro-generative process in a system which is essentially unitary. Ardhanarishvara – Shiva and Parvati represented in a single body – reflects the ambiguities and tensions inherent in these creation myths.
LUNCH & EXHIBITION VIEWING
1.30pm The Painters’ Goddess: Reflections of faith in Indian art B.N. Goswamy
This lecture brings in a range of materials, including works featuring Radha, who turned from Beloved to Goddess, but then goes on to focus upon what was intensely personal to the painters, for they did centre their thoughts, or meditate, upon, an ishta – a deity truly close to their inner beings – before they sat down to paint. One has to read carefully into works before one can locate and identify that favoured figure or icon, but the effort
is worth making, for it leads one to a deeper understanding of modes of thought and expression.
2.30 Power of the Female: Some thoughts on the early female sculptures in Indian art Gauri Krishnan
A number of female terracotta figurines from prior to the Common Era suggest the rise of goddesses in early South Asia. What may have caused such a rise or when this may have occurred, during the Vedic period or the later Puranic period, however, remains unclear. The importance of semi-divine nature spirits like yakshinis and apsaras that played on the general human psyche may have also been responsible for fuelling the importance afforded to goddesses. Using literary and archaeological evidence, this talk addresses issues such as notions of fertility and sexuality, and the development of magico-religious cults of the mother goddess, which ultimately culminates with Durga as the supreme manifestation.
3.15 Exhibition viewing
Saturday 14 October
10.00 Jina Prajnas: female Buddhas of the mandala Chaya Chandrasekhar
A set of five transcendent Buddhas, collectively known as the Pancha Jinas (Five Victors), form the underlying basis of Vajrayana, the esoteric branch of Mahayana Buddhism. In the past, the male aspects of the Pancha Jinas, the Jina Buddhas, have enjoyed ample recognition, earning inclusion in numerous discussions, both theoretical and art historical. Their partners, the Jina Prajnas, the female Buddhas that are within the tradition inseparable from their male counterparts, have, however, received far less attention. This paper explores the significance of the Jina Prajnas as they emerge within Vajrayana to articulate the fundamental principles of the religion.
10.45 The Goddess as Divine Lover: Maithuna imagery in Himalayan art Jane Casey
The maithuna is a Sanskrit term for imagery depicting gods and goddesses in sexual embrace. Although frequently encountered in the Himalayan region, maithuna imagery is relatively rare in other religious traditions. In India, particularly after the ninth century, Hindu and Buddhist communities commissioned maithuna images, and the iconography subsequently flourished in Tibet and Nepal. This lecture examines the development of maithuna imagery in Himalayan art, touching
upon some of the social and religious purposes the imagery may have served, as well as the unique philosophical tenets it was meant to embody.
11.45 Morning Tea
12.15pm The dakini cult: wild
and wonderful goddesses David Templeman
An 11th century Tibetan tantric master observed that there existed three types of dakini; those who devoured human flesh, those who existed in the world
as ‘normal’ women and those who embodied pure wisdom. The Indian origins of the dakini suggest they were initially found as a class of generic, malicious female demonesses. The Tibetan predeliction for such wrathful figures encouraged a proliferation of these forms of the dakini. Although dakinis are frequently referred to as rather abstract ‘wisdom-bringers’ in the enlightenment process, at times their function links them directly back to the Indian themes of ‘troublesome women’ and just plain ‘nuisances’.
LUNCH & EXHIBITION VIEWING
2.30 Shakti, the linga and the dance of Nataraja Alan Croker
This paper considers how both the Shiva linga and the figure of Shiva in his dancing form of Nataraja symbolise the principles of duality that characterise our understanding of the world. There is the principle of potential action considered as male, while the action itself, and the power and result of that action are considered as the female principle, or shakti. These principles embody the process of manifestation of the Supreme Being which is unmanifest: a singular, undivided, non-dual state of pure consciousness.
3.00 The symbolic narrative of the subtle body Madhu Khanna
The Hindu Tantric tradition of goddess worship evolved from the flowering of the concept and ritual of the subtle body in the medieval period. With the advent of the scientific revolution the medical sciences have dominated our understanding of the body, based on a dualism between mind and soul and rooted in the split between the domain of nature and the realm of the sacred. Asian religious traditions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Daoism have offered an ‘embodied’ vision of the self which transcends the biological materialism of the body.