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Friday, January 20, 2012

Dancing Nataraja at Rijks Museum - is full bronze.......

Sure you would not have heard of : Vereniging van vrienden der aziatische kunst – honestly I was not – but it has some connection with our heritage !

There is hot news about the result of X ray of a rare statue at Amsterdam Museum which has surprised everybody.  The website of the Museum has the following entry : -

Research recently revealed that the Rijksmuseum’s monumental bronze statue of Shiva was cast in solid bronze. The thousand year-old temple statue was X-rayed, along with the lorry transporting it, in the most powerful X-ray tunnel for containers of the Rotterdam customs authority. It is the first research of its kind on a museological masterpiece.

At 153 cm x 114.5 cm, the Rijksmuseum’s Shiva is the largest known bronze statue from the Chola Dynasty (9th to 12th century) kept in a museological collection outside of India. Given its weight (300 kg), the statue has always been suspected of not being hollow, as has been common practice in Europe since the Greek Antiquity. As part of an earlier investigation, an X-ray was taken of the statue in a Rijksmuseum gallery in 1999 while visitors were evacuated as a precaution against radiation. Unfortunately, the equipment used at the time (280 KeV) was not powerful enough to determine anything definitively. The Rotterdam X-ray tunnel of the Rotterdam customs authority offered a solution.

Complete surprise  :  The Rijksmuseum renovation project has provided conservators and curators the opportunity to carry out in-depth research on special pieces from the Rijksmuseum collection, including this masterpiece from the Asian Art Collection. The statue was created ca. 1100 in South India. Each temple had its own set of bronze statues which were carried through the city during major temple festivals. This gives the statues their name: Utsavamurti, which is Sanskrit for ‘festival images’. Chola bronzes were considered masterpieces of Indian bronze casting.
Anna Ślączka, curator of South Asian Art, comments, ‘We had expected that the statue itself would prove to be solid, but it was a complete surprise to discover that the aureole and the demon under Shiva’s feet are also solid.’

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum in Amsterdam, located on the Museumplein. The museum is dedicated to arts, crafts, and history. It has a large collection of paintings from the Dutch Golden Ageand a substantial collection of Asian art. It also displays the stern of the HMS Royal Charles which was captured in the Raid on the Medway, and the Hartog plate.  The museum was founded in 1800 in The Hague to exhibit the collections of the Dutch stadtholders.  The Museumplein  is a square in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The square is called "Museum Square" because four museums are located around the square: the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, and the Diamond Museum.

The 12th-century Shiva Nataraja is on loan from the Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst(Association of Friends of Asian Art).  This association was founded in 1918 with the aim of increasing awareness of Asian Art, the interest in it and to promote the science in this field.  The collection has approximately 1730 objects and is internationally known. Through purchases and donations and bequests expands the collection still further. The collection of the Society consists of "scattered highlights, good representatives of the major art forms in Asia.

That is factual News :  is there anything to celebrate on this… in fact one should be worrying !    This statue of dancing Nataraja is not unique – there have been reports of idols stolen from Temples.  In some cases, the idols of some temple are kept elsewhere without appropriate Pooja & rituals as there is no protection.  What is the action taken by the administrating HR & CE in protecting these temples ?  Have they ever taken any action in protecting or any action in trying to recover the idols ?  There is a dedicated Idol wing of Tamilnadu Police Force ?  Does the Department closely liaise with this and other authorities for protecting and recovering lost idols ?

Our Nation was rich – still possesses rich heritage.  Over the years by systematic exploitation and plundering,  Hindu artefacts have been smuggled out of the Country to famous  museums in  Europe, America and elsewhere.  Many prestigious museums  display Statues, Hindu religious sculptures  and artefacts as  owned  / acquired by them.  Hindu sculptures and other artefacts and many were planning to acquire.  To any devout person these are not mere sculptures or statues – they are GOD in themselves… what should have been in a Temple whether famous or not so famous and be the subject of reverence and daily Pujas, had been looted / burgled and smuggled out by unscrupulous thieves and are now attracting Tourists elsewhere.

All temples attract huge crowds and devotees are contributing lakhs of Rupees to Temples…….. but does the money go to God or to the Temple or for any activity connected with religious purpose ?   In Tamil Nadu,  we have had Temples administered by atheists and non-believers who have looted money and property of the temple systematically.  The management and control of the temples and the administration of their endowments is one of the primary responsibilities of the State .  Way back in 1925 an entity called Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments was created purportedly for efficient control and supervision of the administration of the Temples.   The Department is headed by IAS Officer and has Commissioners of various ranks.  Depending upon the earnings (!) from the temples, the rank of the Administrator and  the no. and salaries of staff would vary.  The collection from the Temples become the property of the State Govt and are utilized for various schemes of the Govt which includes non-religious and sometimes activities against the very purpose of such offering to temples.  Many a temples are not properly maintained; people have encroached temple lands and those who have acquired lands on lease do not pay rent properly, even where such amounts are measly.  Thus any repair / renovation work at a temple does not occur immediately and not much spent on the Lord – but the cash flows elsewhere. 

Is it not a great irony  that a secular Government should deeply embroil itself in the administration and running of Hindu temples and institutions in the guise of supervising the secular aspects of temple administration. There are thousands of temples, mutts and others controlled by bureaucracy whereas the place of worship of other religions are managed on their own. 

Some of the most important temples are under complete control, many century old traditions and religious practices have been stopped or altered by Administrators who have knowledge or concern for the worship and conduct of rituals.  Our anguish is not directed at any particular Executive Officer or any other high official, but there have been unscrupulous some who have interfered with the time-honoured rituals and some corrupt bureaucrats which is always detrimental to the bakthas and the Temple.  The EO or other Official have no powers to introduce innovations concerning the time, place or mode of worship in the temple or stop or discontinue any religious practice followed in the temple.

Another matter of great concern is ‘the increased charges for darshan’ – why should a devotee pay to worship or come near the God and how can there by a system which discriminates and distinguishes devotee on the paying capacity.  It only enriches the coffers or some.  There can only be voluntary offering of bakthas and that should be spent only for improving / maintaining / preserving and renovating temple and temple related activities.   Temples  in Tamil Nadu own  thousands of  acres of agricultural and commercial lands donated by believers to the Temple.  There should be enactment that such lands should never be allowed to be sold to any individuals and individuals subletting / sub-leasing the property, paying a small amount to the Temple and gaining huge should be declared illegal and strong action initiated against such persons.   Jewellery and other property of the temple should be properly recorded and kept under public audit to ensure that there is misappropriation. 

In a Secular State, where the Govt has no religion, the Govt. should not be managing the affairs of the Temples, more so when the same Govt exerts no control from other places of worship.   The Shiva idol being solid bronze at best can make one-time reading but a sacred idol lying in a foreign country without any rituals or offerings should make one’s heart bleed

With concern – S. Sampathkumar.

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