Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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The Jagannatha Trio


    • currently in research collection

Objects are sometimes moved to a different location. Our object location data is usually updated on a monthly basis. Contact the Jameel Study Centre if you are planning to visit the museum to see a particular object on display, or would like to arrange an appointment to see an object in our reserve collections.


Publications online

  • Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum by J. C. Harle and Andrew Topsfield

    Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum

    Kṛṣṇa is worshipped in various forms in different regions of India, for example as Śrī Nāthjī at the shrine of Nathdwara in Rajasthan [see EA1966.230] and as Jagannātha, “Lord of the World”, at Puri in Orissa. The temple shrine at Puri houses a family trio of primitive, wooden post-like images with painted faces, comprising Jagannātha, with a black face and round eyes, his brother Balabhadra, with a white face and oval eyes, and the shorter figure of their sister, Subhadrā; a fourth image, standing for the Suderśana Cakra or Wheel of Viṣṇu, stands apart from the group. The crude simplicity of these images suggests that they are a survival of an earlier local cult which became absorbed by Vaiṣṇavism. The gods are attended by numerous temple staff, who treat them in the customary way like human princes, bathing, clothing and feeding them at regular times during the day. Pilgrims have gathered at Puri for centuries, and the huge temple cars in which Jagannātha and his companions are pulled in procession at the Rath Jatra festival gave rise to the English word “juggernaut”.

    Paintings of Jagannātha, most commonly shown with Balabhadra and Subhadrā, have long been sold in great numbers around the temple to devotees attending the many annual festivals. Like the Kalighat paintings of Calcutta [EA1966.183] they were painted rapidly, usually on cloth or paper, and sold cheaply. The economy of technique and simple, earthy colouring of this image of the goggle-eyed triad, draped in garlands and with their stumpy arms held aloft, serve to convey a sense of their spiritual power in the eyes of their worshippers.

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