Sacred and the Visual


Vishnu Kimbell Art Museum

Chola Bronze sculptures date back to the 9th century, and were made by the patrons of the Chola Dynasty in South India. The beauty of these structures lie in their unfinished colour and details, along with the process in which they were made. The ‘cire perdue’ or the lost wax process was used, where the sculptures were first moulded in wax, and covered with a layer of stone, finally  after exposing to high heat,  they were broken open to reveal the sculpture.

This Chola Bronze statue is of the Hindu god Vishnu.With broad shoulders and a muscular physique he stands upright in posture, with the legs perfectly balanced and positioned. The icons that help us identify it’s Vishnu, are the discus and conch shell in his hands.

The gestures or mudras of his hand are yet delicate to the contrasting masculine appeal.

What I find fascinating about the sculpture is that it displays physical strength along with composure at the same time, making Vishnu look desirable and as the ideal man. Areas of power are ornamented like the head and shoulders along with the prominent fissure at the pubic region too. Interestingly these areas are also linked to the erogenous male zones.

Although the sculpture is of a religious deity, these slight tones imply otherwise. The posture is not sexual at all, yet the expression on the face with closed eyes and a content smile can have a double interpretation. The structure and aesthetics of the sculpture also give us an insight into the idealistic body types of that time, as the gods are always depicted in the most appealing way. The beauty of the visual lies in its innocent nature with a hint of intimacy in the most subtle way possible.

“The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India.” Accessed February 10, 2015.

Accessed February 10, 2015.



The Ketjak is a form of dance originated in Bali. it is a trance ritual which began in the 1930s, to ward out evil and death in a small village called Bona. The ritual was originally performed every six months, where over 200 men circle around a fire and chant the words ‘kac kac kac’ in unison. The story of the Ramayana is reenacted in the centre, where no musical instruments or words are used. The sole supporter are the chants of the men which aid the story.

The voice modulation changes at different times, with chanting at different pitches. They shake heir hands, stand up and sit down, all in a single place without much movement. The dancers in the centre are dress with elaborate head gears and very prominent eye makeup. At all times of the performance their eyes are wide open, with changing expressions. The hand movements of the dancers too are stark and crisp, yet intricate.

The attire the chanting men wear is simply a checkered skirt, with a hibiscus on the side of their head. The dancers wear bright coloured costumes, yet not heavily ornamanted. There is more play with the fabric colours rather than heavy work.

Another important aspect of the performance is the visual depiction of the characters of Ramayana in Balinese culture. Rama is depicted as violent as opposed to his calm nature in the Ramayana by Valmiki, and even Ravana is represented as having only one head. The Rakshasas and Hanuman wear similar masks, making Hanuman look like them.

The form has its roots as a dance of exorcism, known as the Sanghayng. It was performed to drive out evil, and it’s dancers performed it in a trance.

Overall, having experienced the performance myself, I feel to some extent the true nature of the ritual, with its dark and exorcist trance and mood is quite lost today. Audiences were not welcome to the original chanting of the people.

The truest form of Ketjak is unknown to most, making it even more mysterious and alluring.

“Kecak Dance, Bali – Tale of RAMAYANA – Entry of Hanuman.” YouTube. Accessed February 10, 2015.

“Kecak’s Origin: The Dance That Saved a Village.” Kecak’s Origin: The Dance That Saved a Village. Accessed February 10, 2015.


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