Blog Archives

Herodotus and The Fountain of Youth

The Fountain of Youth, From mural at Manta Castle near Saluzzo, Italy

Herodotus introduced the concept of a mythological water source with the power of granting eternal youth

The Fountain of Youth is a mythical spring that is supposed to have the power of prolonging or restoring the youth of those who drink from or bathe in it.

Myths of such a fountain are to be found in various cultures, particularly throughout the Middle East. The first recorded mention of it is from the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-435 BCE), who recounted a claim that there was such a fountain in Ethiopia. In the Middle Ages, stories about the Fountain of Youth circulated in the Islamic world and then spread to such European works as The Travels of Sir John Mandeville (c. 1356).

The Fountain of Youth, 1546 painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder

In the sixteenth century, the Spanish historian Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, who wrote early accounts of the European exploration of the New World, reported a native story of a miraculous fountain on an island in the Gulf of Honduras, an inlet of the Caribbean Sea. While the explorer Juan Ponce de Leon was indeed given a charter to discover and settle a legendary island (Beniny or Beimeni), the popular idea that he sought the Fountain of Youth there seems to have been invented by the sixteenth-century historian Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, who maliciously added that Ponce de Leon hoped to cure his impotence.

However, the story about his search for the Fountain persists as a historical myth. Marcel Proust said in [[Remembrance of Things Past|Proust[Remembrance of Things Past, “The only bath in the Fountain of Youth would be … to possess other eyes.”

Few people take the story of the Fountain of Youth seriously today, but it remains a popular theme in literature and the arts (such as Darren Aronofsky’s film The Fountain, 2006).

It is also inevitable as a metaphor in discussing the modern concerns of prolonging lifespan and reducing the effects of aging.

Tagged
Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture Philosophy and Wisdom

Resplendent Sculpture of Avalokiteshvara from Kurkihar (Bihar, India) from 12th Century

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara from Kurkihar, Bihar

The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, a sculpture originated from Kurkihar, during the reign of Ramapala of the Pala dynasty, 11th-12th century. Kurkihar is the historical site was visited by Buddhist pilgrims in the ancient times including the Chinese travelers Fa-Hien and Hieun Tsang. It lies at a distance of approximately 22 km from the Gaya district.

This bodhisattva sits on a double lotus in lalitasana; his right foot rests on a lotus emanating from the base, suggesting that a prabhamandala was in place on another base. His right hand is stretched out, bestowing blessings and boons. The left hand holds a lotus stem which blooms over his left shoulder.

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara sits on a Double Lotus in Lalitasana Wearing a girdle with pearls around his waist, the other jewels comprise a necklace, bracelets, arm-bands and a beaded sacred thread that drapes over his right thigh. Notable are the twin kirtimukha, faces, on his armbands. His hair, arranged in a coiffure on top of his head, contains an effigy of Amitabha.

Kurkihar: Relic of an ancient Buddhist Monastery

Kurkihar is a village about three miles north east of Wazirgunj. It deserves mention on account of the remarkable abundance of ancient remains. Carved slabs of large size and architectural fragments of all kinds are found in plenty, often built into the walls of houses. Votive stupas are to be found in abundance on the edge of a large tank, great quantities of large bricks of ancient make are still being dug out of the great mound. Some well-preserved statues had been removed by the local zamindar to his house, the most important of which is a figure of bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

There is another collection of ancient sculptures in the courtyard of the temple of Bhagwati, among which is a singularly beautiful figure of Buddha in meditation. At Punawan, three miles to the south-west are more Buddhist remains. Here stood the once famous temple of Trailoknath which does not now exist.

A large mound that this village sits on the top of is the remains of what was a Buddhist monastery in antique times. The village hit the headlines in 1930 when one hundred and forty-eight bronze articles were dug out of this mound. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of all sizes, bells, stupas and ritual objects of the finest workmanship were recovered. Most of these are now on display in a special room in the Patna Museum.

The second of Kurkihar’s two Hindu temples still has a large collection of Buddhist sculptures in it that have been found in the area over the years. One of the best of these is a fine statue of Akshobhya Buddha just outside the entrance of the temple. Note the fourteen calved pillars in the temple also, they date from about the 9th century.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion Music, Arts, and Culture

Rockcut Saiva Temple (Cave I) in Badami, Bijapur

Dancing Nataraja at Rockcut Saiva Temple Badami in Bijapur

There are four caves or rock cut temples at Badami and they are numbered I to ‘I’ fo ‘IV’ easy identification. They are all carved side by side. The first cave is dedicated to Siva, second and third are caves for god Vishnu and the last one is for Jina. There is also a natural cave which is referred to as Buddhist cave. The existence of places of worship of Saiva, Vaishnava and Jaina religion side by side testifies to the religious tolerance of the people of the Chalukya period which is worthy of admiration.

This Saiva rock cut cave looks small from the outside. It has a long flight of steps from the ground level to go upto the level of the cave with a pavement in front. The facade of the cave consists of a moulding which has carved ganas in different moods on either side. Above the moulding are four square pillars with two pilasters at each end. The pillars have low relief carving. The temple itself consists of a portico, a mandapa and a garbhagriha. The rectangular portico has some beautiful sculptures, such as Nataraja, Harihara, Ardhanarisvara, etc. The dancing Nataraja has eighteen hands each of which has some weapon or the other. He is dancing in dvibhanga. To his left is Ganapati who is also dancing and by his side is a drummer playing on the mridanga. The whole composition is extremely vibrant. The other sculpture of Harihara is another elegant composition. Right portion of the main sculpture represents Siva as can be identified by battle axe, serpent, and Nandi with trisula. To the left is Vishnu who holds the sankha, with garuda at the bottom. Parvati and Lakshmi are standing on either side of the god. Thus it represents Siva-Vishnu aspect very effectively.

The eight feet tall Ardhanarisvara is another elegant sculpture with gods and goddesses on the top and dwarf ganas at the bottom. The right portion is symbolic of male while the left is female . The harmonious combination of this aspect is fully brought out by the artist very effectively. The bass-relief sculpture of flying gandharva couple within a circular medallion is a beautiful sculpture, expressing the divine smile. The pillars have sculptures of Narasimha, Garuda and Prahlada, Yogi worshipping linga, mithuna figures etc. The small garbhagriha has a linga on its pitha.

There is no inscription in this temple to fix its date. But taking the stylistic evidence and the inscription of Mangalesha in the third cave, it may be ascribed to sixth century AD.

Tagged
Posted in Faith and Religion Travels and Journeys

Expressionism: An Art Movement

Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night

Expressionism is an art movement that emphasized the importance of self-expression.

The Dutch Post impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-90) saw the world differently from most of the Impressionist painters who surrounded him. Instead of capturing the light and colors of the natural landscape as a dispassionate observer, as the Impressionists had done, van Gogh looked inside his troubled psyche and discovered a new style of self-expression. Van Gogh’s art provided a mirror for his angst-ridden soul and, years later, it would lead to the formalization of an entirely new kind of painting.

Van Gogh once wrote in a letter to his brother, Theo, “Instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I see before my eyes, I use color more arbitrarily to express myself forcibly.” Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) depicts the view from his sanatorium window at night, but its swirling sky and luminous stars are no faithful representation of what he saw; exaggerated and distorted, they suggest his inner reality. The Starry Night is now seen as a pivotal painting in the march toward Expressionism.

The Scream (1893) by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch Four years later came The Scream (1893) by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944), another icon of Expressionism. The painting depicted Munch himself, pausing while crossing a bridge and crying out in desperation from the blur of his anxiety informed world. Edvard Munch once said, “My art is self-confession. Through it, I seek to clarify my relationship to the world”

Like The Starry Night, Munch’s painting has the ingredients of Expressionism—the use of strong, nonnaturalistic colors and distorted lines—many years before the Expressionist movement had its “official” beginnings with the German artistic group Die Brucke (The Bridge), who met together for the first time in Dresden in 1905.

Tagged
Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture

“La Justice” by French Painter Bernard d’Agesci

La justice by Bernard d'Agesci, Musee Bernard d'Agesci (Museum Niort)

“La justice” is a painting by Musee Bernard d’Agesci (Museum Niort) by 18th Century French painter Bernard d’Agesci.

Bernard d’Agesci’s “La justice” depicts a female that holds scales in one hand and a book in another. One page of the book reads “Dieu, la Loi, et le Roi” (“God, the law, and the king” in Latin) and the other page contains the Golden Rule.

Originally Jean-Charles-Henri-Auguste Bernard, Bernard d’Agesci painted religious and mythological subjects and portraits in Neoclassical style. Bernard d’Agesci commemorated in the Musee Bernard d’Agesci in Niort in Western France, the town of his birth.

Tagged
Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture