William & Mary

Art of India Trip to Hindu Temple & VMFA

Art of India Students in front of Hindu Temple, Richmond VA

Visiting Assistant Professor Melissa Kerin and students from her Art of India course took a field trip to Richmond November 13, 2010 to visit the Hindu Center of Virginia’s newly constructed temple (seen in the background of the photo) and to view the recently installed South Asian galleries at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  At the temple, students observed a priest ritually bathe a deity in milk and saffron water before dressing it in vibrant silks.  While at the museum, students had the opportunity to talk to the curator about culturally sensitive issues of acquisition and display of Indian religious objects.  Following this unique experience —which was generously funded through the Asian Studies Initiative and the Charles Center—students wrote reflection papers cogently addressing the myriad roles Indian art plays in the sacred and secular spaces of our modern world.  Here are just a few of their observations. 

“More than anything, it struck me how these images were so much more than art.  They are profoundly different from other forms of religious art (a page of detailed Islamic calligraphy or an intricate Christian stain glass window, for example) because the deity actually dwells within the tangible figure.  This belief is so central to Hinduism and so heavily based in art, that the two (religion and artistic expression) are inextricably intertwined.”

Kelsey Nawalinski, Neuroscience 2011


 “It is an odd juxtaposition, a temple and a museum.  They are the present and the past, the living and the dead, the insubstantial and the tangible, the personal and the academic.  They [the juxtapositions] provide us with insights and perspectives that texts and fixed-angled photographs are just not capable of providing.” 

Anthony Guzman, East Asian Studies 2011