Essay on Significance of Religious Art in Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism

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University of California, Santa Barbara
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Religious art refers to artistic images that uses religious motifs and inspiration. This kind of art is important in religion as it is believed to have immense significance in transforming the mind to a spiritual state. In other context, this type of religious art is called the sacred art. This type of art was symbolic and usually involved both cultic and ritual practices. It is also important to note that art involved operative and practical aspects which characterized the path to spiritual realization. This type of arts had great significance and deep religious importance as far as different religions are concerned. Some of the religions that the art had iconic meanings and significance include Christianity, Buddhism and finally Hinduism.

There are several ways in which religious art is applied in Christianity. The art is used to symbolize various religious aspects and beliefs. The Christian sacred art is used in Christianity to help in illustrating, portraying and supplementing various tangible and iconic principles in Christianity. Through this art, it is easier to make imagery of various Christian beliefs that exist across the world. Various Christian use different images to symbolize certain beliefs. However, some of the images developed have been largely opposed. Several Christian sacred arts have been developed based on themes that are familiar to the targeted audience. As such, these images can be declared to be hinting hence very important to Christianity (Lazaridou 25). An important application of the sacred art is on the theme in which the virgin Mary is drawn carrying an infant baby who grows to be Jesus Christ. A famous theme depicted by the art is Jesus crucified on the cross. Apart from Mary and Jesus, other subjects that have been emulated through art include angels, saints among others.

In Christianity, church decorations were important because the current believers who had joined Christianity understood the value of images from their previous cultural practices. Christians believed that it would be important to continue with the trend of using images for religious importance. The images that were used symbolized the kind of developed that Christianity as a religion had undergone over the past several centuries. The religious arts also are used when burying the dead in order to show that the area is a holy place and very respected. The arts are important since the dead are believed to ascend to be with the most high and supreme being. As such, they are considered holy entities (Lazaridou 35).

The presence of the religious arts in a given environment helped in differentiating the regions from the non-Christian regions. For instance, Christians believed that the religious arts in church would help in distinguishing the church as a holy place as compared to other non-holy places. As such, this will guide people to give the deserved respect to places occupied by supreme beings. Churches were identified by images symbolizing resurrection of Christ, his crucifixion and nativity (Lazaridou 65).

The images in Christianity were used mainly for prefiguration and anticipation of the death and mostly resurrection of Jesus Christ. For instance, the story of Jonah where he was swallowed by a big fish then spending 3 nights and days in the stomach of the fish. The story of Jonah being swallowed by the fish ends when he is vomited on dry land. To Christians, these images of Jonah were used to symbolize the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Lazaridou 45). Other images in the Christian domain that have been used for spiritual significance include Daniel at the lions Den, Moses when he struck the rock, and the three Hebrews who were thrown into the hot furnace.

The religious art that were important in Buddhism as a religion included paintings, sculptures and other artistic forms. These images were used to represent concepts and stories of Buddhism. One important aspect of using Buddhism art was the figurative depictions of Buddha hence making the images symbolic. In Buddhism, the religious arts used not only represented Buddha but also their gods and boddhisatvas in a spiritual manner.

Buddhism also applied the ritual arts such intricate mandalas to show how meditation was an important aspect as far as Buddhism is concerned. The religious symbols used in Buddhism were used to symbolize loyalty. Buddhism originated from Indian, a country which had its leadership based on royalty. This kind of leadership was important to the people of Indian for peace to existence. Some of the key pillars that this kind of leadership would flourish on was loyalty. As such, the religious symbols were important as the image of lion was used to symbolize loyalty (Starr 16).

Through the religious arts, the purity of Buddhism as a religion was shown. The religious art of Lotus was used to show purity, the nature of Buddhism being un-spoilt and finally the religions nature to be blooming. This symbol of lotus was also important as it represented the impossibility of water adhering to it as such leaving it spotless. Another important symbol was dharmacakra, which was a wheel of law. This symbol was important as it encouraged the faithful to always speak the truth as outlined by the great Buddha. Another important symbol was the Buddha tree which symbolized the fertility cults hence representing the life of tree.

Buddhists used some of their images for political reasons. Among the arts that they used for unuite regions politically include then Mathura and Gandhara (Starr 29). The art of Mandhara was very important during its established as it led to the building of various kingdoms within India such as the Indo-Greek and Greco-Bactrian Kingdoms. On the other hand, the art of Mathura was an image which represented divinities like Yaksas divine but in a very unique and archaic manner. All in all, the two arts in question played an important role in politically uniting the two regions in which they were rampant made and used (Starr 36).

The art made by Buddhists were also used for representing the resonant and beautiful voice of Buddha which he used to introduce those who followed him to dharma. The symbol that represented Buddhas voice was the conch shell the conch shell was blown from the rooftops. It was important as it helped in gathering the monks and disseminate important religious information to them. Another important role for this art was that it was used as means of carrying holy water. For entertainment purpose, this tool was used to playing music to the gathering.

Another important art was the two fishes. This symbol was important as it signified the two rivers which were Yamuna and Ganga. Consideration meditation as an important aspect in religion, Yamuna and Ganga symbolized the flow of breath by means of exhalation and inhalation (Starr 57). Furthermore, the two fishes also represented solar and lunar channels. The golden fishers usually swim freely in water, hence, they symbolized happiness.

In Hinduism, there were several artworks which represented different themes. For instance, Hinduism Vishnu Temple which was dedicated to their god Vishnu. The temple was simple but unique usually made out of masonry work. The artwork that accompanied the temple was important in that it gave relief to the believers (Doniger 23). Those who were devoted to the religion would on their first visit, go around the church from the outside. This act was meant to give the devotees relief since the church symbolized the presence of Vishnu.

The Hinduism have got a site of elephanta which has three caves that were initially occupied by Brahmins. This site was a clear symbol that showed their dedication to their god. The site also showed their devotion to Shive. The cave consisted of mainly a major shrine which was established together with Shiva linga. Hinduism has established a major objective of living a holy and righteous life. In order for this objective to be achieved, the religion decided to emulate some of their gods in paintings and images. These paintings and images existed on the walls of the churches as well as the walls of their homes so as to guide people in their ways of living. The act in which the believers aimed for a righteous life was known as dharma (Doniger 56). The symbols made as a result of artistic work would also help believers in attaining highest level of profession which would help them in acquiring of wealth, an act known artha. Another act achieved was kama, which is sexual love. Finally, the symbols allowed for believers to undergo spiritual salvation, also known as moksha.

Hinduism was a very interesting religion that had no single spokesman as well as a prophet or founder. The religion was a complex one within a mixed origin. It was mainly based on deities. Therefore, during worship they sang hymns as they praised the deities which turned out to be the personifications of the vast natural elements. As such, the religion ensured that the deities were widely represented by the religious arts for the sake of belief (Doniger 63). The religious arts also helped in strengthening the faith of the believers in the powers that were possessed by the mother goddess. It is also important to note that Hinduism had fertility symbols which enabled the great believers to have faith in fertility hence bringing peace in their existence within the society.

Finally, religious arts are very important symbols for all the three religions discussed in the paper. For the case of Christianity, the symbols brought about holiness to the church of God. Believers believed that arts made of Jesus Christ among others were holy hence symbolized the presence of a supreme being. The religious arts in Buddhism were also important as they symbolized the various features that existed within the religion. The gods in Buddhism were represented by various images as well as various important themes such as unity and loyalty. Lastly, Hinduism also had important religious arts which represented different themes. Since they lack a single prophet nor founder of the religion, different believers had different images depending on the location that they occupied.

Works Cited

Doniger, Wendy. On Hinduism. N.p., 2014. Print.

Lazaridou, Anastasia. Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd - 7th Century Ad. New York: Onassis Cultural Center, 2012. Print.

Starr, Frederick. Korean Buddhism: History, Condition, Art. London: Forgotten Books, 2016. Print.

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