About the gallery
Masterpieces of sculpture, painting, and ritual objects trace the spread of the grand religions of India – Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, across trade routes from India to China, and on to Southeast Asia.
India gave rise to Hinduism and Buddhism, which spread throughout Asia, and also Jainism. Jainism has been continuously practised in India since at least the 6th century BC, but it never became popular outside India. Jain art relates stylistically to Buddhist and Hindu art.
As Hinduism and Buddhism spread, artists borrowed ideas and assimilated familiar local concepts to create new forms. Concepts that resonated most with each local community became more emphasised. The art produced to support the religions evolved from Indian models, but styles unique to each culture developed. By the 8th century, Hinduism and Buddhism were practised in much of Southeast Asia.
Many religious concepts and attributes of deities are mystical and unfathomable. Since the gods are thought to be ever-present, they can take on many different forms. So how does an artist create an image that expresses all these things? Sometimes they give the deity a relatable human form, but with attributes to show divinity and superhuman power. Other times, they might use abstract and symbolic imagery to explain what the god or goddess represents.