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The Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Neeraja Poddar (Philadelphia Museum of Art): "The Philadelphia Museum of Art's Gosainkund Painting: Visualizing the Routes and Sites of Pilgrimage in Nepal"

Pilgrimage to Gosainkund, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Accession Number 2000-7-3

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.

We are virtual for fall 2020! All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on how to attend upcoming Zoom meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Philip Mogen.

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