Author: Richard Davis
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8120816927
The author walks the reader through great historical periods pointing out everywhere the situated practices by which the meanings of images are constantly being remade.
For many centuries, Hindus have taken it for granted that the religious images they place in temples and home shrines for purposes of worship are alive. Hindu priests bring them to life through a complex ritual establishment that invokes the god or goddess into material support. Priests and devotees then maintain the enlivened image as a divine person through ongoing liturgical activity: they must awaken it in the morning, bathe it, dress it, feed it, entertain it, praise it and eventually put it to bed at night.
In this linked series of case studies of Hindu religious objects, Richard Davis argues that in some sense these believers are correct: through ongoing interaction with humans, religious objects are brought to life. Davis draws largely on reader response literary theory and anthropological approaches to the study of objects in society in order to trace the biographies of Indian religious images over many centuries.
He shows that Hindu priests and worshipers are not the only ones to enliven images. Bringing with them differing religious assumptions, political agendas, and economic motivations, other may animate the very same objects as icons of sovereignty, as polytheistic idols, as devils, as potentially lucrative commodities, as objects of sculptural art, or as symbols for a whole range of new meanings never foreseen by the images' makers or original worshiper.
COMMENT: This is the best kind of scholarly book: literate, not without a sense of humor, genuinely informative, pertinent and consequential, and accessible yet highly erudite. A triumph. - The Times Higher Education Supplement
Davies writes with an elegance not common in scholarly books. - Journal of Asian Studies
This is imaginative and innovative scholarship that jumps over the walls between religious studies, art, history, and cultural criticism. The case studies of images are wide-ranging, from temple lootings in medieval wars and representations of Indo-Muslim iconoclasm, to colonial recordings, modern commodifications, and revisions on the part of contemporary India's religious right. Davis walks the reader through great historical periods pointing out everywhere the situated practices by which the meanings of images are constantly being remade. - Sheldon Pollock, University of Chicago
List of Illustrations
Translation and Transliteration
Trophies of War
Vishnu's Miraculous returns
Indian Images Collected
Reconstructions of Somanatha
Loss and Recovery of Ritual Self
Conclusion : Identities and Manifestations