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Art of Faith II: Hinduism
Art of Faith II is a sumptuous high-definition visual experience exploring the architecture and art of Buddhism, Hinduism and Religions of the Tao presented and narrated by the broadcaster John McCarthy. The three 55-minute films travel the world visiting the greatest and most significant religious buildings, exploring how the passions and complexities of religious beliefs have been expressed in architecture.
Filmed for Sky Arts and looking back over the last 3000 years, the series provides an insight into how we have celebrated art through faith. With contributions from architects, scholars and worshippers, the films explain the buildings’ genesis, laying down the brush strokes of the sites’ design, whilst looking at the shared elements and contrasts between religions and the aesthetics of the places of worship.
Hinduism’s history is as complex as the stories of its many deities and the architecture of this religion serve as an excellent place to understand the meanings of the major gods and their myths. Hinduism has no uniform set of beliefs set out in a creed, there are sacred texts but nothing that dominates the religion like the Bible or Koran does for Christianity and Islam, and there is no single founder. Rather, Hinduism is less a religion as we commonly understand it and more of a philosophy of how to live ones’ life, with one commentator remarking “it cannot be defined, is only to be experienced”.
Hinduism examines how the diversity of Hindu thought is reflected in its architecture, from humble village shrines to centuries-old temples carved out of mountains. If Hinduism is closer to a philosophy, a set of beliefs in how to live, how does it depict life itself?
Often spectacular, compelling in their details, exquisite and sometimes strikingly erotic and sensual, locations visited include: the Kailasa Shiva Temple, Ellora in Deccan, India; the Temples of Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, India; Brihadeshwara Temple, Thanjavur and the Meenakshi Temple, Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India; Vijayanagara, Karnataka, India; and the world-famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The vast majority of the followers of Hinduism today are in India, but the religion spread to many other countries in south-east Asia, although never with the same impact as Buddhism. Among the most prominent dynasties who embraced Hinduism was the Funan of Cambodia, and they were responsible for what was (although it is no longer used actively as such) the largest Hindu temple in the world at Angkor Wat.
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, England
Opened in 1995, this is the first Hindu stone temple in Europe and was built entirely with traditional methods and materials. It was financed entirely by the local Hindu community at a cost of £12 million.
Kailasa Shiva Temple, Ellora, India
The Kailasa Temple is carved from a single piece of rock, cut out from a mountainside. It was constructed by excavating some 200,000 tonnes of material and is as one guidebook has it, ‘a vast lump of solid basalt fashioned into a spectacular complex of colonnaded halls, galleries and shrines.’ With the nearby Hindu (and Buddhist and Jain) caves it represents an astonishing monument from the first great age of Hindu architecture and art, which was strongly focussed on cave and rock-cut building.
Temples of Khajuraho, India
Although many Hindu temples contain remarkable and, to western eyes, remarkably explicit sexual sculptures, these temples are particularly known for the delicate sensuality and forthright eroticism of their carvings. Carved from soft, buff-coloured sandstone, the temple group includes the Lakshmana which dates from around 950 CE.
Brihadishwara Temple, Thanjavur, India
This is an awesome monument of the Chola dynasty, built around 1000 CE. It exemplifies the Dravida style of southern temple building. The distinctive shikhara (the ‘mountain peak’ or spire) is particularly graceful here, rising through 13 levels as a hollow pyramid above a monumental linga, or emblem of god Shiva.
Minakshi Temple, Madurai, India
One of the largest temple complexes in India, the Minakshi Temple was built between the 14th and 18th centuries, although its highly-coloured carvings are constantly repainted. The shrines here are the focus of a hugely popular fertility cult, centred on the coupling of Shiva and Minakshi.
The ruined city of Vijayanagara or ‘City of Victory’ is better-known today as Hampi. It was founded in 1336 and became one of the wealthiest and grandest cities in Asia before it was partly destroyed some two hundred years later by the Deccan sultanates.