Neeraja Poddar (Philadelphia Museum of Art): "The Philadelphia Museum of Art's Gosainkund Painting: Visualizing the Routes and Sites of Pilgrimage in Nepal"
Monday, October 12, 2020, 5:15pm, via Zoom
Our speaker writes:
This talk is the result of research that began five years ago, when I was part of the team reinstalling the South Asian galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I was asked to write a label of about 50-100 words for a pilgrimage painting in the collection, and realized I would need many more words to discuss the spectacular, multi-layered, and unique object. The painting depicts pilgrims walking winding paths, fording fast-flowing rivers, and climbing steep cliffs as they make their way through the Kathmandu Valley to the holy lake of Gosainkund in the north; the landscape is dotted with numerous temples, sacred pools and fountains, monasteries, stupas, and shrines. In my talk, I suggest how the painting might function as a sacred map that invites viewers to undertake a pilgrimage to the holy lake, or any other site of their choosing. In order to examine the painting, viewers must walk along its length, emulating the bodily movements of the pilgrims who make the journey through the valley. And, I propose that, like the pilgrims, viewers are able to accrue religious merit by worshiping at the holy lake—the remnants of ritual substances sprinkled on the painting are still visible, transforming it into an icon and making it a potent stand-in for a physical pilgrimage.
About our speaker:
Neeraja Poddar is The Ira Brind and Stacey Spector Associate Curator of South Asian Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She has published on illustrated manuscripts from early modern South Asia and recently guest edited an issue of Manuscript Studies on manuscript variations. Her curatorial projects include Mewar Photographs, 1857-1947: A Glimpse into the Archive at The City Palace Museum, Udaipur, and the reinstallation of the South Asian galleries at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Poddar’s research has been supported by The Clark Art Institute, the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the C. V. Starr Foundation, and Columbia University.
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