Icons, Troubled and Troubling

Some Observations from the Vimānārcanakalpa

  • Gérard Colas Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris
Keywords: icon, Vimānārcanakalpa, Viṣṇu, kings, power, danger, atonements

Abstract

The Vimānārcanakalpa, a text of around the 10th century C.E., belongs to the Vaikhānasa medieval corpus of ritual manuals. It contains a wealth of ritual and iconographic prescriptions about man-made icons of Viṣṇu and his manifestations, management of power in icons, atonements for ritual shortcomings, etc. According to the Vimānārcanakalpa, the duty of the founder patron, the priests and the whole society is to perpetuate ritual and preserve the integrity of icons as defectless bodily forms in an unsullying environment, because the benefits aspired to by them through the installation of icons are constantly threatened. Dependent on numerous internal (material damage, ritual defects, etc.) and external (theft, defilement, etc.) factors, icons are forever prone to troubles and can become troubling when deprived of ideal conditions.

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Published
2019-06-14