Hindu Art and Architecture

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As diverse as the world’s third-largest religion itself, Hindu art and architecture consists of multiple strands, regional variations, deities, and paths to salvation. In this tradition, architecture and religion are intimately intertwined, with architectural sculptures frequently depicting Hindu’s main deities—Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, and the Goddess, who represent facets of the Supreme Enlightenment (the Brahman). Hinduism’s visual tradition encompasses both mythological and secular themes, narrating the religion’s goals for life on earth: achieving spiritual salvation (moksha), righteous living (dharma), love (kama), and prosperity (artha). Over centuries, Hindu temple structures have evolved from rock caves carved into cliffs to large monuments with symbolically multifaceted spaces. As cultural traditions changed rapidly in the late 19th century, artist Ravi Varma pioneered the use of color lithography to mass-produce his Western-influenced paintings of Hindu deities, subjects that contemporary Indian painter Manjit Bawa also later depicted, referring to them as “icons of my country.”

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