The Minneapolis Institute of ArtsWorld Religions in Art
Back to Main PageHinduismBrowse a list of Hindu Art Objects


previous pagepage12345next page

Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Dance)

Shiva Nataraja (Lord of the Dance)
Late 10th Century
Artist Unknown

In the Hindu religion the Absolute cannot be represented visually, for it has no form and it exists beyond time. However, to assist believers, Hinduism illustrates this Absolute in the form of a masculine trinity, or trimurti, composed of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and its complement, the Great Goddess Devi, who personifies the female aspects of spirituality.

Hinduism is more than a religion. It is a complete way of life. Every act of the orthodox Hindu's existence—rising each day, bathing, eating, praying—is regulated by rituals. Devotion manifests itself in prayer, in the physical activity of yoga, and in numerous pilgrimages and processions. Hinduism is a monotheistic religion; the many deities are not venerated as idols, but serve as focus images for the meditation the Hindu practices to transcend all worldly things and find union with the one supreme being, the Brahman.

Hinduism has become an encompassing term describing three major religious systems. Depending on the god they emphasize, Hindus are either followers of Vaishnava (Vishnuism), Saiva (Shivaism), or Shakta (Shaktism), the cult of the goddess.

Hindu Iconography
Hindu symbolism is extensive, but artists are meticulous about details. Precise instructions for artists are provided in religious texts: a god must have hair only on his head, eyelashes, and brows. He should always be splendid both in countenance and in adornment. Deities are therefore decorated with bracelets, anklets, necklaces, earrings, and armlets.

previous pagepage12345next page

| MIA Home | World Religions Main Page | Buddhism | Christianity | Islam | Judaism | Hinduism |