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Painting depicting shrines to Lord Shiva
1994.675
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Both the cloth painting itself and its content matter are extremely rare. One rarely sees the representation of subject matter related to shraddha (annual death rituals) in this medium. Of a comprehensive portrayal, in the middle is shown a large yoni shape containing several shivalingam, the an iconic representation of Lord Shiva combining both male (lingam) and female (yoni) principles. In the zone on the right are references to specific shraddha-related sites and sacred rivers such as Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. The celestial world is represented in the zone to the left with celestial animals Airavata, Ashva, Vasuki and Kamadhenu. Another striking part of the depiction is its detail; 90 shivalingam are painted herein. They either refer to a major jyotirlinga (a naturally-formed linga) or a regional Shiva temple. In a small area is represented a very significant event – Vishnu and his consort Laksmi seated on a sheshanaga (coiled serpent) represent the primeval waters before Vishnu created the world. Stylistically this painting bears similarities to the Basohli and Chamba schools of Pahari painting, which is usually done on paper. However, the format of this painting seems to relate more to Jaina tirthipata cloth paintings, which are like topographic renderings of sacred sites. This painting is a unique one among all known collections.

History of the Object
The format and content of this painting is much like the Jaina tirthipata cloth paintings which are like topographic renderings of sacred sites. In this work, sites related to annual death rites are depicted. These are Dashashvamedha (Varanasi), Prayag, Bodhgaya, and Gaya. There is also mention of temples within Gaya and the sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. These sites are illustrated in context of a Hindu family’s visit to perform the last rites for their parents or annual death rites known as shraddha. Hence the purpose of this painting is the commemoration of this visit.

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Type
Painting 
Materials
cotton cloth, paint 
Measurements
L198.4 x W92 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Pahari region (hill states) of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. 
Geography
India 
Time period
AD 17th century ~ AD 17th century 
Creation date
Last quarter of the 17th century - Early 18th century 
Function
This painting commemorates a noble family’s visit to Gaya in northern India for a shraddha-related ceremony (annual death ritual), a customary practice considered very auspicious among Hindus. It is considered to shower merit upon the commissioner. 
Acquisition
This painting was in the collection of the family which commissioned it to commemorate their visit for the death ritual of an ancestor. However, how the painting left the family’s collection remains unknown. The painting was purchased by the Museum at an auction house in 1993. 
Copyright
Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore 
Acknowledgements
Gauri Krishnan and Priya Jaradi 
Owner
Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore 
Museum
Asian Civilisations Museum 
Credit line
Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore 

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