Four-Armed and blue-skinned is my favorite depiction of Hindu gods and godesses, as shown in Indian temples or, alternatively, printed upon fashionable textile bags in the West. Exchange India for China, Hinduism for Buddhism, blue for gold, and four arms for thousand arms, add a healthy dose of communist affection for formation choreographies, and the result looks something like this performance by the Chinese dance company “My Dream” at the 2009 Summer Deaflympics in Taipei:
The tale goes like this: Guanyin (the female version of Avalokiteśvara) tried so hard to understand the plight of those suffering that her head burst into 11 pieces, which Amitābha Buddha transformed into 11 heads. This in turn enabled her to not only think about, but also hear all of those suffering, which made her want to reach out to them, resulting once again in shattered body parts – 1000 pieces this time, subsequently transformed into thousand arms.
Artistic deliberation upon religious-mythical subjects can also be found in pop music of the West. Perhaps most well-known is Madonna’s lyrical and audiovisual 1989 approach “Like a Prayer”, where she toys with Catholic notions of iconic “miracles”:
Also Whitney Houston relied on inspirations from the biblical ideas of a “judgement day” and a fatherly/authoritative deity for the lyrics of her 1999 “My Love is Your Love”:
Religions may draw upon different storylines and employ different forms of artistic expressions. Yet that neither the number of arms, nor the number of deities make much difference to their essence, can perhaps best be observed in the natural ease with which the heros and heroines of Bollywood frequent the Christian churches of Switzerland (when they are not singing and dancing atop snow-covered mountains wearing thin sarees and kurthas) – For example in the 1995 Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge church scene:
Have a pious week,