Who were the children of Durga

review

Museum Rietberg (ed.): The world emerged from the Milky Sea. Eight stories of gods from India. Basel: Baobab Books 2018, 40 pages, EUR 19.00 - order directly by clicking

In the book for children aged nine and over, the Indologist Caroline Widmer and the art historian Penelope Tunstall tell eight stories of the gods that give an insight into the world of Hinduism. Indian miniature paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries from the collection of the Museum Rietberg (Zurich) are used for illustration, which allow children (and adults) to get to know an art form unknown to them with unfamiliar depictions of gods, demons and landscapes.

After a short introduction to the gods of Hinduism and their representation in songs and epics, in paintings and statues, eight stories are told:

  1. "The goddess on the brush tip": A painter is supposed to make a picture of the beautiful wife of a prince. But he cannot see her because she is in the harem. He depicts any beautiful woman. Shortly before he is supposed to hand over the painting, a tiny drop of paint falls on one of the woman's thighs. Since there is a mole at precisely this point, the prince believes the painter has met his wife in secret and, furious, has him locked in a dungeon. At night, however, the goddess Devi appears to him in a dream ...
  2. "A competition among gods": The blue-skinned Vishnu and the four-headed Brahma argue about which of them is the more powerful god. Suddenly a huge pillar rises out of the ocean. Vishnu and Brahma make a bet ...
  3. "How the daughter of the mountains conquered the heart of Shiva": Since the death of his wife Sati, the god Shiva has lived as a hermit in the Himalayas. One day a daughter is born to the king there and named Parvati. She grows up to be a beautiful and clever girl who always prays to Shiva and says that she only wants to marry him. After Parvati has already refused many suitors, the sage Narada advises the angry king to bring his daughter to Shiva so that she may serve him ...
  4. "The fastest doesn't always win": The elephant-headed god Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya - sons of Shiva and Parvati - want to compete around the world. The winner should receive a magical mango ...
  5. "Durga defeats the buffalo demon": The demon Mahisha cannot be defeated by any male god, human or animal. So the indomitable subjugates all people and then defeats the gods. Together they bring forth the goddess Durga, who has many arms. She receives from the other gods their best weapons and a lion as a mount. So she goes into battle ...
  6. "A drink for immortality": The wise man Durvasa gives the god Indra a garland of flowers. This adorns his white elephant, which, however, tears off the garland and throws it on the ground. Thereupon Durvasa curses the world: "You and your elephant, you are so conceited and ungrateful! You should no longer have luck. Because of you, all gods, people and animals will be persecuted by misfortune from now on!" (P. 27). Then the world sinks into chaos. Only Vishnu finds a way how the battle between gods and demons can be ended ...
  7. "In search of Sita": One day Sita, the wife of the king's son Rama, disappears. Since Sugriva, the monkey king, owes Rama a favor, he sends Hanuman, son of the wind god Vayu, and an army of monkeys on a search. Hanuman finally finds Sita on the island of Lanka ...
  8. "Krishna and the mountain": Krishna, another figure of the god Vishnu, lives as a shepherd with foster parents in a rural region. When the village wants to celebrate a big festival for Indra, he instead suggests a festival in honor of the cows and Govardhana Mountain, where the cattle graze. This happens, but Indra is angry about it and sends a violent storm over the village. But Krishna is also a god ...

The richly illustrated book tells eight exciting stories that offer a first glimpse into another religion. Some young people have seen Hindu temples and figures of gods on long journeys - now they can read about their world and look at detailed pictures. But children will also develop more interest in classmates and other fellow citizens who are Hindus ...

Martin R. Textor