Painted Prayers an Exhibit of Ritual Art by Indian Women Is Being Displayed through Sept. 20 at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

Article excerpt

Last weekend, Padma Subramanian planned to introduce her

11-year-old daughter, Sangeetha, to one of the traditions of

their Indian heritage.

It was a tradition Padma Subramanian's mother taught her when

she was only 5 while in Pudukkotai, a small Indian village. It's

something she says she'll never forget.

The tradition, known as painted prayers, is religiously

significant in India and has been around for at least 1,000

years, said Mary Linda, assistant director for the Cummer Museum

of Art & Gardens in Riverside, where a painted prayer exhibit

recently opened.

The Subramanians, who visit the Cummer often, are excited about

the museum's new photo exhibit, Painted Prayers: The Ritual Art

of the Women of India, in which the tradition is portrayed by

photographer and author Stephen Huyler of Maine.

The exhibit, which opened June 15, continues through Sept. 20.

Huyler, who spent an average of four months each year during the

last 27 years photographing Indian family traditions, will

discuss his photography and the ritual art of Indian women at

the museum on Sept. 8.

The focus of Huyler's displayed work is rituals of practical

Hinduism, especially the daily devotion of India.

At least once a year in some Indian states and every day in

others, women create sacred drawings or paintings as part of

their religious rituals. Hindus living in India believe that a

goddess protects their homes, and that her spirit spreads

throughout the structure of each house and prevents misfortune

and mishap.

Using a combination of rice flour or mud and cow dung, Indian

women paint colorful symbols, shapes and figures in various

sizes on the exterior walls of their homes, on floors and on the

ground to honor the goddess and bring good luck. That's why

they're called painted prayers.

Some of the drawings are of animals. Others are simple images

or designs such as dots and geometric patterns. …