ONE @ 50: The Christian Art of India Today

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. Read about Christian art in India, and how it depicts not only the grace of the human body but also the presence of the divine, in this article, originally published in Summer 1978.

Read an excerpt from “The Christian Art of India Today” below, then read the full story.

Seated cross-legged, with downcast eyes, the figure wears an expression of inner contemplation. The traditional symbols of light, life and truth surrounding him, as well as the way the hands are held, suggest that He is imparting wisdom and protecting from danger. He could be any Hindu guru…

But he is not just any guru. He is Christ, the “Divine Guru,” a figure having great importance for all those interested in Indian Christian art.

This Christ, a mosaic work executed by P. Balan for the front of the Dharmaram College Chapel in Bangalore, represents the spirit of the Christian art of India today. For, besides expressing the motto of the college — “Devotion to the Lord is supreme wisdom” — the “Divine Guru,” with its Hindu and Buddhist overtones, reflects the recent attempt of the Church of India to embrace and build upon the country’s artistic and cultural past.

In most countries Christianity was introduced into the genuine cultural tradition of the country. But India was an exception. When the Gospel was first preached there in the first century A.D., Indian art was too identified with Buddhism to adequately express the unique message of Christ.

And then, when the second spurt of Christian missionary work came in the 16th and 17th centuries, Mughul art with its Moslem emphases dominated the scene.

But since India’s political liberation in 1947, it has become evident that the Church of India, to be true to itself, must identify itself with the cultural and artistic heritage of India’s past.

Read more.

Born in Kerala, India, the author holds a Ph.D. in Theology from Gregorian University in Rome, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University. Currently an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham, Father Chethimattam is the author of ?Patterns of Indian Thought,? a book published in the U.S., England and Poland.

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