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Mirabai      by Tim Holmes

Mirabai is a 15th century Indian Bhakti mystic and poet.

Mirabai Writes a Tale

crayon, oil pastel, collage

36 x 36 inches


crayon, oil pastel, collage

49 x 36 inches

These paintings, one of which has been up on this website for years, instigated a rather interesting dialog beginning on Easter day, 2012, with a Hindu who was upset by my depicting the nudity of a Hindu saint. Since then there has been an ongoing campaign to have these images removed from the internet, including an online petition to this effect, which, interestingly, reproduces unedited Mirabai Writes a Tale in its entirety! (I didn't mention that they are supposed to ask permission of the artist to reporduce an artwork).

They find the images "lustful', which is nowhere near my intent. I have been responding to every single person who comments or signs the petition in an attempt to engage in some real dialog about what I feel are very important issues of freedom of expression and religious tolerance. But few of them ever writie back and none for more than two exchanges.

Another unbelievable thing is that my deep respect for the Hindu tradition stems in part from the fact that among all the major religions it is the one that has a rich religious tradition of an appreciation for erotic imagery that transcends shallow titillation so common in western culture. Ironically, this is what so impresses me about Mirabai and her Bhakti cohorts, who are able to speak of their devotion to their god Shiva with such thunderingly powerful erotic poetry.
For instance, hang onto your seat for this12th C. song from the Gita Govinda about a tryst between Krishna and Radha:


  "0 my beloved, be content in this

  and allow me to embrace you.
  Crush me with your hard breasts,
  entwine me in your vine-like arms
  bite me with your merciless teeth
  inflict upon me, 0 beautiful one,
  any punishment that you wish and be happy.
  Let my life not end
  under the blows of Love
  the five-arrowed one,
  the undignified one."

...just to put in perspective what lustful looks like, the Bible has a lot of juicy stuff, but it doesn't have blows of love!  Very impressive!

Naga SadhusAnother question: perhaps my Hindu friends can clear up some confusion surrounding your complaints about my painting of Mirabai in the nude, which you find lustful. Here is a photo of the Hindu Naga Sadhus, who obviously parade naked in public. This way of life also includes women, called sādhvī. So is this ritual a sex orgy masquarading as devotional or is the abjection to female nakedness simply naked sexism?

The exchange of letters can be followed here

Art is not a single experience, but a unique journey for each to undertake on their own.

Creative Commons Copywrite • 2014 • Tim Holmes Studio