India and Israel are natural allies who are united by a fundamental commitment to the democratic ideals upon which they were founded, Israeli President Isaac Herzog has said, as he made a rare appearance at an exhibition in Jerusalem featuring Indian deities and temple rituals.
Herzog attended a cultural event at the Israel Museum on Thursday evening to inaugurate the new exhibition titled ‘Body of Faith: Sculpture from the National Museum of India.’ He called the exhibition a byproduct of the growing friendship between the two countries.
“India and Israel are natural allies, united by a fundamental commitment to the democratic ideals upon which both our nations were founded. Yet this evening transcends politics, commerce — even diplomacy,” he said.
“This evening shines a light on our shared humanity while paying tribute to the rich history and cultural legacy of the Indian people,” Herzog, who made a rare appearance because of “his love for India”, said.
“This exhibition, literally ‘spirit within matter’ in Hebrew, is yet another byproduct of the growing friendship between the Indian and Israeli nations and a reflection of the deep resonance of arts and culture that our nations share,” the Israeli President emphasised.
The display features 14 exquisite large-scale Indian sculptures created between the fourth and thirteenth centuries, some on loan from the National Museum in New Delhi and some from the Israel Museum’s collection, a spokesperson for the Israel museum told PTI.
The exhibition taking place in Jerusalem assumes a special significance given the Biblical references to Indian-origin spices and fragrances like Neradh oil, Ahaal aromatic wood and Cinnamon, which among others were considered essential for religious services during the Temple periods in Jerusalem.
The six-month-long exhibition will also involve a series of academic talks and special lecture demonstrations by selected artists from India, adding to the academic affluence of the exhibits on display.
Taking note of the unique first collaboration between the Israel Museum and the National Museum, Herzog highlighted that the exhibition brings to Israel historic artefacts that have never before left India.
“What an honour and a pleasure it is. I had the privilege of seeing the exhibition, and it is just incredible,” the Israeli President said. “Through this collaboration, we have the pleasure of hosting incredible statues and a thousand years of Hindu culture. These masterpieces span three distinct periods in Indian history and with remarkable precision, they reflect the vitality and dynamism of a Hindu religion that has strongly influenced the collective human consciousness and has sparked the imagination and interest of people throughout the world,” he said.
The Israeli leader also spoke of how his countrymen have been fascinated by the “unique gifts that Hinduism has shared with humanity” and how they flock to India by the thousands each year, bringing home rich experiences that “broaden our horizons as a society”.
“This exhibition affords us the opportunity to look beyond our own horizons in Israel. It provides us with a deeper understanding and appreciation for human history from ancient times to the modern era,” he said.
“This is a great gift to the people of Israel, and I have no doubt the important artifacts showcased here will enrich the lives of those who view them,” the Israeli President said at the packed auditorium of the Israel Museum.
Herzog described the inaugural event as a “marvelous evening of culture, history and friendship”.
“It is wonderful to be here celebrating the evidence of our fruitful ties,” the Israeli President said while mentioning about his participation in a space conference next Monday in Abu Dhabi along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As India and Israel celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations, India’s Ambassador to Israel, Sanjeev Singla, said that millennia-old people-to-people contacts and linkages are the bedrock of civilisational ties.
Speaking about the exhibition, Singla said that “Indian temples of classical and early medieval periods of history were profusely adorned with sculptures which sought to synthesise beauty and divinity”.
“This exhibition is a modest attempt to provide a peek into traditions in Indian faith and culture as also India’s rich sculptural heritage,” the Indian envoy said.
Miriam Malachi, the exhibition’s curator, who received a huge round of applause, said that “it is a rare privilege to host India’s national treasures, and an honor not to be taken lightly”.
Israel Museum’s Chairman, Isaac Molho and Director, Prof. Denis Weil, also lauded the unique partnership between the National Museum of India and the Israel Museum describing this first ever initiative as a “reflection of the importance India attaches to its relations with Israel”.
Body of Faith draws from three major epochs in the history of Indian sovereignties, namely, the Gupta dynasty (4th–8th century CE), the mid-Chola dynasty (10th–12th century CE), and the Pala dynasty (8th–12th century CE).
Among the 14 sculptures of Hindu deities in bronze and stone, eight have been loaned from the National Museum and other six are taken from the Israel Museum’s own collection.
The loaned artefacts from the Indian National Museum include – Nataraja (12th Century, Chola period, in bronze), Ganesha (13th century, Pala period, in stone), Vishnu (11-12th century, Pala Period, in stone), Ganga (8-9th century, Pala Period, in stone), Brahmani (12th century, Chola period, in stone), Vishnu (12th century, Chola Period, in stone), Saptamatrikas (9th century, Northern India, in stone), and Surya (8-9th century, Chola period, in stone).
The display from the Israel Museum’s own collection include – Child Saint Sambandar (9th century, Chola period, in bronze, Shivling (Gupta period in stone), Agni (10th century, northern India, in stone), Parvati (11th century, Chola period, in stone), Celestial Dancer (10th century, Rajasthan, in stone) and Chamunda (10th century, Northern India, in stone).
The Trikudim Dance Group, comprising three Israeli dancers trained in Indian dance forms – Kathak, Kuchipudi and Odissi – enthralled the audience at the inauguration ceremony with their scintillating dance performances.