Art and religion have had a long enduring relation over the centuries. Almost all religions have used art as a form of expressing the essence of each religion (Mohanty 27). Hinduism and Christianity are two of the most notable religions that have applied art in expressing the beliefs thereof. Islam too has used art over the years. Though Islam forbids art depicting human beings to avoid idol worship, many its art is in shapes like geometrical and flower shapes. This marriage between art and religion has lead to the coinage of the term ‘Religious art’. This is defined as depicting religious theme using art. Christianity and Hinduism led the other religions in the use of these form of art (Mohanty 78).
Using Art in Christianity and Hinduism
In ancient cities where the two religions once flourished, there are numerous religious art. This may be curved in buildings, sculptures, statues or paintings. These religious art incorporated religious art with cultures of the time. Both Christianity and Hinduism faith influenced Architectural designs of many buildings in part of Europe in the early middle age to late middle age. These are evidence especially in territories which were under the Roman Catholic Jurisdiction. On the other hand, Hinduism religion influence on buildings was far much earlier than this time. Evidence of Hinduism influenced Architecture can be traced back over a thousand years in parts of Asia (Mohanty 46). The Hindu religious art has continued to influence even modern day Architectural designs especially the places of worship.
Another similarity in use of religious art in Christianity and Hinduism is the use of sculptures. The sculptures depicting either saints, monks or a deity have been common in both religions. Among the Christians, the Catholics venerate such sculptures which depict mostly revered saints, the Virgin Mary or Jesus in a crucifix. On the other hand, Hindus not only venerate these sculptures, but also represent different deities. Thus in Hindu religion, this form of art has been literal representation of different deities (Freeland 27).
The use of drawings and paintings has also been largely been used to create a religious theme in art. Both Christians and Hindus have used painting for the same purpose as sculptures – depicting saints and deities. This form of art is found in both places of worship as well as in houses. The Middle Age painters during the renaissance, helped to spread religious art in form of paintings and drawings (Williamson 47). Hinduism used paintings and drawings, though not in a large scale as the use of statues in their religious art. In both religions, artist use art to portray a story as contained in Holy books. The most drawn stories in Christianity include the crucifix and the last supper, while in Hinduism, the god Vishnu with an extra limp and one raise leg, depicts Hinduism to many (Williamson 48). Christians honors an icon believing that, the person it represents can act as a go between the living and god. In Hinduism, veneration to statues is honoring a deity.
The major contrast between Christianity and Hinduism is that, while most Christians, who venerate statues, treat them as a medium to a deity. On the other hand, Hinduism venerates the deity in the form of the statues. While it can be said that religious art in Christianity has over the recent years dwindled, Hinduism on the other hand has maintained strong use of art in religion (Freeland 41). This has influence Hindu way of life than in Christianity. Thus, religious art has been ingrained in the culture and day to day life of Hindu follower. Veneration of statues is a daily devotion for a Hindu believer.
The use of art in religion and capturing religious themes has contributed to a rich heritage both in art and culture. Art has been able to pass religious messages more than written words both in Christianity and Hinduism. For example, crucifix portraits has made possible to relate it with the story of Jesus even among non-Christians. Among the Hindus, the statue of an extra-limped being can be easily be associated with Hinduism even for those who don not know its meaning. The power of art in spreading the believe system of these two religions is enormous (Mohanty 7).
Much of history of a Country like India where Hinduism started can not be written without religion and its art. Many of India’s Architectural designs are highly influenced by religion. Moreover, people way of life including decoration using flowery patterns can largely be said to be determined by religion. Regions art can be said to be a great heritage which has survived and evolved over the years. Ancient cities such as Rome has rich religious art heritage. Religion can be said to be the single greatest contributor to architectural design in former Roman Empire (Freeland 20). Use of religious art also has brought the amorphous message in religious beliefs more to reality. By using art such as statues or icon, believers can easily conceptualize the religion believes and teachings. The use of this form of art has had a remarkable contribution to the entrenchment of these two religions
Though many people have tried to vilify the use of this form of art as idol worship, its contribution and influence on religion and culture of Christianity and Hinduism can not be underestimated. The use of religious art has made this kind of art an integral part of these religions which they can not do without. Many world religions use art as part of their culture and practices. This includes Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. Many of the religious art used help us to identify many of these religions.