My encounter with Hinduism began long before I set foot in India, on 27 March 2009, during the second year of my journey among Buddhists. The Polonnaruwa Museum in Sri Lanka holds endless rows of Buddha figures with stone features forever frozen in beatitude. By the time I passed statue number ten I no longer paid much attention to the succeeding ones. Buddhist art – which seems to have only ever reproduced the head and body of its founder – is indisputably a sublime art, but little more than an eternal repetition.
In the wing dedicated to Hindu art I found myself transfixed, literally, before a small statue of Shiva Nataraja performing his cosmic dance. His complex movement, his graceful gestures beckoning spirituality, his androgynous nature mesmerized me.
Hinduism may be the least egalitarian of the great religions, but what diversity exists in its artistic expression! I very much look forward to my next plunge into the Hindu world.