14 Nov 2020 - 30 Nov 2020

Whole day

Getting Here


ACM is a 5-minute walk from Raffles Place MRT Station (Exit H) 




Different communities observe Deepavali all over the world. Explore the Ancient Religions Gallery in the Asian Civilisations Museum, and discover three objects from the National Collection linked to some of these communities.



  1. FIND the object with the floorplan provided.
  2. LOOK closely at the objects using the guiding questions. 
  3. READ the object labels in the gallery for answers. 
  4. CLICK on the provided links to explore more about the object at home with our digital resources.


Tour duration: Approximately 30-minutes  



Lobby -> Level 2 Ancient Religions 

From the lobby, take the stairs or lift to Level 2. Refer to the floorplan here to locate the objects.




  • Object 1 – Cosmic man

    Enter the second room of the Ancient Religions Gallery, which traces developments in Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain art as these religions spread out from India.  

    Spot a large, colourful painting of the Cosmic man mounted on a wall on the right. 

    Tour_Cosmic Being copy

    Cosmic man (Lokapurusha

    India, Rajasthan, Mewar, late 18th century
    Painted cotton.

    What differences do you see in the upper, middle, and lower sections of the painting?

    Why do you think there are different sections within the man?

    What do you think is written within the painting?

    Examine this magnificent painting done on cloth! This type of painting is very popular in Jain art. Jains believe that the universe has no beginning or end, and is not created by any god. In this painting, this concept is depicted using the human body divided into three regions.

    This Cosmic man is made up of upper, middle, and lower sections. The middle section is the mortal earthly realm. The orderly layers of heaven are above and the chaotic, torturous levels of hell below. Observe the different colours used for the tiny figures across the sections.

    Hung in a temple, this painting would teach Jain followers about the existence of life on earth. The middle section is thought to be the most important because it is where the cycle of rebirth is possible, and because Jinas (individuals who have attained enlightenment) are born on earth.

    Click here for more details.

    Do a quick search online for other depictions of the Cosmic man, also called Lokapurusha. How do they differ from this painting and one another?

    Now turn around and look for the playful sculpture of the elephant-headed god Ganesha. Examine it closely and consider the questions below. Move on to other sculptures of Ganesha in the gallery (find four more!) and compare materials and styles.

  • Object 2 – Dancing Ganesha
    Tour_Dancing Ganesha copy

    Dancing Ganesha

    India, Madhya Pradesh, early 10th century


    Can you spot a snake and a mouse hiding somewhere?

    What do you think Ganesha’s personality might be like? 

    What do you think this sandstone sculpture looked like before it became weathered over the years?

    This is a sculpture of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Indian god. Look carefully at the image. Can you spot a snake and a mouse hiding somewhere?

    Ganesha is one of the most popularly worshipped Hindu gods, and is the child of Shiva and Parvati. He is said to possess a fun-loving and playful personality. His big belly shows that he enjoys many sweet treats! Between his feet sits his vehicle, a quiet mouse. All Hindu Gods have vehicles, which help them travel through the heavens.

    Ganesha loves dancing and is popularly depicted mid-dance in South Asian art. On both sides of his legs sit ganas playing instruments. Ganesha is also leader of the ganas, who are attendants of Shiva. 

    Click here for more details.

    Did you notice that one of Ganesha’s tusks is broken? Search online to find different stories about how Ganesha broke it. Which story did you like the most?

    Walk further down to the end of the gallery and spot the watercolour painting of Guru Nanak with Bala and Mardana in a showcase on your right. Take this chance also to admire the other objects related to Sikhism. 

  • Object 3 – Guru Nanak with Bala and Mardana

     Tour_Guru copy

    Guru Nanak with Bala and Mardana 

    India, Punjab, early 18th century, 
    Opaque watercolours on paper.


    - List some similarities and differences in how these men look or dress.

    What do their expressions and body language tell you about the relationship between these three individuals? 

    What do you think they are talking about?

    In this small, detailed watercolour painting, Guru Nanak is accompanied by his friends Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana. Guru Nanak Dev is founder of Sikhism, and first of the Ten Gurus. Bhai Bala on the left is a Hindu, and Bhai Mardana, on the right, a Muslim. They are Guru Nanak’s trusted companions. The three of them travelled together across India and many parts of Asia to spread the message of equality and humanity, and they encountered many adventures along the way.

    Themes of many Sikh paintings include the life stories of Guru Nanak, which are called Janamsakhis. Other paintings feature portraits of the Ten Gurus, kings, and officials. These paintings were made to pay respect to the Sikh gurus and spread the values of Sikhism, which are honesty, compassion, generosity, humanity, integrity, service, and equality.

    Learn more about the adventures of Guru Nanak, Bala, and Mardana as they travelled across the world by doing a web search. What are some of your favourite stories about them?

We hope you had fun learning about the different communities which celebrate Deepavali through the objects in our galleries! Diversity, multiculturalism, and religious harmony are core values in the Singaporean identity. Discover more objects relating to Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism in the Ancient Religions Gallery.


Explore the rest of Ancient Religions online, here.