Jnanapravaha | think critical. think art.

Upcoming Programmes

OCT Onwards
Theoretical Foundations
Module II. Civil War
Rohit Goel
NOV Onwards
Islamic Aesthetics
Seven Wonders of the Muslim Civilization
H. Masud Taj
NOV Onwards
Buddhist Aesthetics
Gandharan Art and Architecture
Pia Brancaccio

Past Programmes

Community Engagement
JPM Write: Style
Rohit Goel
Yoga and Tantra
The Legends Of Nathasiddhas
Amol N. Bankar

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Queens Mansion, 3rd Floor, G. Talwatkar Marg, Fort, Mumbai - 400001. India.
E-mail: to.jnanapravaha@gmail.com, info@jp-india.org
Tel      : +91-22-2207 2974 / 2207 2975
Landmark: We are next to Cathedral Middle School, in the lane opposite J.B.Petit School.



Spiritual Beyondness: The Form of Allah and Visions of the Divine

3 - 5 Jan '18 6.00 - 8.30 pm

Can the eternal, as opposed to the historical, and the outmost Holy, which cannot be grasped by human being, be visualized? And if, how and to what extent? These are the basic questions that form and dictate the aesthetic realm of the ‘Sacred’. Despite several religious constrains, which usually involve the concepts of the ‘Forbidden’ and the ‘Beyond Sight’ of the Sacred in Islam, the aspiration for Divine apparition (theophany) and its spiritual experience seemed to enrich and inspire the aesthetic of the Art of the Holy in Islam and to define its distinctive characters and limits.
These series of three lectures will be devoted to three major aspects concerning the visualization of the Divine. The first discussion focuses on the concept of theophany – the Hadith of the Vision (al-rū’yā) – and on the ‘incarnation’ of the divine, namely its meta in morphosis. The second lecture analyzes varied iconic visions of the Haram (the sacred sanctuary) of Mecca. Its focus is the scared space as real and imagined. The third lecture discusses metaphors associated with the image of the Divine and on substances associated with the eternal and everlasting.

January 3rd
Theophany, the Hadith of the Vision (al-rū’yā), and incarnations.
In the core of this lecture is the hadith, the oral tradition which relates to the deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, concerning the vision of the highly sacred. Taking one of the most moving verses rhymed by the thirteen-century Iranian poet and Sufi scholar Sa’adi (born 1210, died 1292) about his love to Allah as our point of departure, the question of theophany will be complicatedly discussed. Moreover, the (al-ru’ya) hadith transmitted by Hammad ibn Salama (d. 774), which relates of a dream revealed to the Prophet of an ecstatic vision of Allah will be discussed too. As suggested by scholars, this hadith should be associated with contemporaneous Christian ideas of the youthful Christ, Christus invenis, spread in Christian communities at that very conjunction of time, and seemed to gains much popularity in Sufi circles. This lecture explores the particular visual forms of the ‘coming to being’ of the sacred in early Islam and demonstrates how the Quran as object of veneration embodies the main idea of the incarnated Holy. Moreover, the notion of the sacred in early Islam will be historically contextualized and mapped within the further monotheistic concepts of the sacred, reflected visually and literarily in both Judaism and Christianity.

January 4th
Images of the Haram in Mecca.
The “Sacred” and the “Holy” (haram in Arabic and, to some extent, al-quds or al-muqaddas), are Semitic words (see Herem and Kadosh in Hebrew) denoting the act of separation, parting, or setting aside, and imply the apparent human faculty of setting distinctive borders between holy and profane zones. Constrained to time, these spaces become chronotopes. But, whereas the sacred space appears as totally autonomous and linked to the eternal, the profane zone seems to exist as bound to historical time. This supposition results in assigning terms such as “common,” “habitual,” and “ephemeral" to historic times, as opposed to “pure” and “intact” designating the “Holy” as linked to everlasting time. This lecture analyzes varied iconic visions of the Haram (the sacred
sanctuary) of Mecca. A close and attentive gaze at the late medieval and early modern images of Mecca suggests a crucial change and shift in the mode of the depiction of the holy sanctuary. Moreover, the earlier flattened and two-dimensional images of the sanctuary, which, as I argue, contributed to the hierophany of the sacred and suggested its relic character, were replaced by perspectival images that evoked veracity and authenticity and fixed the sacred space within its larger geographic setting.

January 5th
“Metaphors We Live By”: The Lamp, Veil, and Screen and Materials that resist time.
This lecture consists of two main sections. In the first part the lamp, the iconic image of the sacred, which in various religious cultures is usually associated with light –an abstract, immaterial and intangible substance – is discussed. The crystallization of the ‘hanging lamp’ motif in the arts of Islam illustrates the consolidation of the sacred as rigid and fixed image but, at the same time, as one suggesting multilayers of meanings. Other images relating to visibility vis-à-vis invisibility, like screen and veil, illustrate the importance of the ‘manipulated’ pious gaze in Muslim scared spaces.
The second part of this lecture focuses on the use of seemingly ‘eternal’ substances for decorating sacred spaces and objects. These are materials and artifacts that resist time and withstand metamorphosis, namely the change of forms, shapes and even textures and consistencies of materials as related to time. It focuses on natural materials, like hard precious stones, rock crystals and marble – materials associated in medieval times with the concepts of everlasting and eternity. These materials and the objects made out of them seem to vehemently reject natural process, thus enhancing the ideas and beliefs associated with timelessness and the ‘eternal’.

This public lecture is part of a course Islamic Aesthetics: In Praise of Aj’aib, the Wondrous


Avinoam Shalem

Avinoam Shalem is the Riggio Professor of the arts of Islam at the Columbia University in the city of New York. Prior to his appointment, Shalem held the professorship of the history of the arts of Islam at the University of Munich and taught at the universities of Tel Aviv, Edinburgh, Heidelberg (Hochschule für jüdische Studien), Bamberg, Luzern and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. He was Andrew Mellon Senior Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2006, Guest Scholar at the Getty Research Center in 2009; and Lester K. Little Scholar in Residence at the American Academy in Rome in 2016. Between 2007-2015, he held the Max-Planck Associate Fellow at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. His main field of interest is in medieval artistic interactions in the Mediterranean basin, medieval aesthetic and the historiography of the field of art history. He has published over 100 articles in academic magazines and books and is the author of several books. Among his recent publications: The Image of the Prophet between Ideal and Ideology: A Scholarly Investigation (with Christiane J. Gruber): Die mittelalterliche Olifante (2 vols); and Gazing Otherwise: Modalities of Seeing In and Beyond the Lands of Islam (with Olga Bush). He co-curated the exhibition The Future of Tradition: The Tradition of Future in Haus der Kunst, Munich (2010) and is currently directing the research projects When Nature Becomes Ideology: Palestine after 1947. His recent publication (published in August 2017), The Chasuble of Thomas Becket: A Biography (Munich, Hirmer Publishing House).


Registration Fees: Rs. 3000/-



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Queens Mansion, 3rd Floor, G. Talwatkar Marg,
Fort, Mumbai - 400001. India.
Tel: +91-22-2207 2974 / 2207 2975.
Fax: +91-22-2207 2976.
Email: to.jnanapravaha@gmail.com,

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