Art and Devotion at a Buddhist Temple in the Indian Himalaya

Art and Devotion at a Buddhist Temple in the Indian Himalaya

Art and Devotion at a Buddhist Temple in the Indian Himalaya

Art and Devotion at a Buddhist Temple in the Indian Himalaya

Synopsis

Sixteenth-century wall paintings in a Buddhist temple in the Tibetan cultural zone of northwest India are the focus of this innovative and richly illustrated study. Initially shaped by one set of religious beliefs, the paintings have since been reinterpreted and retraced by a later Buddhist community, subsumed within its religious framework and communal memory. Melissa Kerin traces the devotional, political, and artistic histories that have influenced the paintings' production and reception over the centuries of their use. Her interdisciplinary approach combines art historical methods with inscriptional translation, ethnographic documentation, and theoretical inquiry to understand religious images in context.

Excerpt

This book investigates the complex devotional, artistic, and political histories of a set of late-sixteenth-century wall paintings at the Rgya ’phags pa (Gyapagpa) Temple in Nako, a village in the Khu nu (Kinnaur) District of India’s Himachal Pradesh state (plate 1). the paintings that form the focus of this book have only occasionally been included in cursory surveys of the region; they have not, however, received any rigorous academic analysis. By contrast, coeval paintings at courtly and religious centers such as Tsaparang and Tabo have been studied, to varying degrees, for their art historical and religious significance. There are several notable factors contributing to the omission of the Gyapagpa wall paintings from the academic record. the first is that these paintings were not the products of grand courtly patronage. Consequently, little historical evidence about the paintings, such as inscriptions or chronicles, survives. Moreover, the materials and craftsmanship of these paintings pale in comparison to those of other neighboring sites with strong royal affiliations. Lastly, these paintings were produced when Nako was located on the margins of both mainstream political and religious activity.

What, then, could these unknown, faded, and marginal paintings have to teach us? This book will demonstrate that these murals are among the rarest sources of historical documentation for this area and sixteenth-century period, as well as for a specific type of Tibetan Buddhism practiced in Kinnaur (fig. 0.1). Analysis of this overlooked temple and its paintings has provided significant insights into religious practices . . .

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