Many Heads, Arms and Eyes: Origin, Meaning and Form of Multiplicity in Indian Art

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One of the first things that strike the Western viewer of Indian art is the multiplicity of heads, arms and eyes. This convention grows out of imagery conceived by Vedic sages to explain creation. This book for the first time investigates into the meaning of this convention. The author concentrates on its origins in Hindu art and on preceding textual references to the phenomenon of multiplicity.
The first part establishes a general definition for the convention. Examination of all Brahmanical literature up to, and sometimes beyond, the 1st - 3rd century A.D., adds more information to this basic definition.
The second part applies this literary information mainly to icons of the Yaksa, Śiva, Vāsudeva-Krūsnūa and the Goddess, and indicates how Brahmanical cultural norms, exemplified in Mathurā, can transmit textual symbols.
Both Part I and Part II provide iconic modules and a methodology to generate interpretations for icons with this remarkable feature through the Gupta age.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'This major scholarly work, the product of a career-long investigation, bridges the field of Hindu art history and Sanskrit literature and to a lesser degree the history of religion.'
Carol Radcliffe Bolon, The Journal of Asian Studies.
'The book must be read by everyone who works on the art and religion of early India. Coomaraswamy and Kramrisch (who was one of the Srinivasan's teachers) would be proud of her work.'
Robert L. Brown, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 2001.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Doris Meth Srinivasan, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, is Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She has published extensively on the art of Mathura; Hindu iconography; Vedic studies, including Vedic and ancient Hindu rituals.
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Table of Contents

Sect. A Introduction
Ch. 1 Theory 3
Sect. B Basic Definitions in the Samhitas
Ch. 2 The Rig Veda Defines the Multiplicity Convention 24
Ch. 3 The Atharva Veda Sustains and Expands the Definitions 33
Ch. 4 So Does the Yajur Veda 41
Ch. 5 Theory Con't: Vedic Rudra-Siva 47
Sect. C Transference of the Purusa Ideal into the Brahmanas
Ch. 6 From Purusa to Prajapati 60
Ch. 7 Rudra and Visnu are Linked to Purusa-Prajapati 76
Sect. D Multiplicity in the Upanisads
Ch. 8 The Fullness of Brahman 83
Ch. 9 Body of God in the Svetasvatara Upanisad 96
Ch. 10 Murtis and the Mahanarayana Upanisad 112
Sect. E Multiplicity in the Epics and Beyond
Ch. 11 The Bridge from Words to Forms: Multiplicity in the Epics and Selected Devotional Texts 129
Ch. 12 The Language of Numbers 162
Sect. F The Prehistoric Period
Ch. 13 Does the Multiplicity Convention Begin in the Indus Civilization? 179
Ch. 14 Ritual as Icon 185
Sect. G The Pre-Kusana Period
Ch. 15 Maha Yaksa: Image of an Apparition 197
Ch. 16 In Praise of Heroes (Vrsni Viras) 211
Ch. 17 Religious Networks and Incipient Saiva Forms 221
Sect. H The Kusana Period
Ch. 18 Multiplicity and the Merger Towards Vaisnavism 240
Ch. 19 Saiva Multiplicity: The Germination of God 260
Ch. 20 The Enigma of the Multi-Armed Warrior Goddess 282
Ch. 21 Why Mathura? 305
Sect. I Epilogue
Ch. 22 Exceptions that Prove the Rule, Exceptions that Don't 325
Bibliography 339
Index 351
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