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Plate Inscribed with Flying Figure of Hanuman Holding a Flag, Mace and Spear

Accession Number
1978/2.89

Title
Plate Inscribed with Flying Figure of Hanuman Holding a Flag, Mace and Spear

Artist(s)
Indian

Artist Nationality
Indian (South Asian)

Object Creation Date
18th century - 19th century

Medium & Support
copper

Dimensions
9 1/4 in x 7 1/16 in (23.5 cm x 18 cm);9 1/4 in x 7 1/16 in (23.5 cm x 18 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Leo S. Figiel and Dr. and Mrs. Steven J. Figiel

Label copy
March 28, 2009
This copper plate presents a profile portrait of the monkey-general Hanuman. His contours have been etched into the plate and filled entirely with ornamentation in the form of Hindi letters. The resulting object is not merely an image, but a yantra—a functional tool or instrument believed to have talismanic properties. In India, these mystical diagrams are typically composed of geometric and alphabetical figures etched on small plates of gold, silver, or copper. These devices serve a twofold function: to invoke a particular god, and to help the devotee focus spiritual and mental energies upon that deity. They are frequently devoted to the achievement of health, good fortune, or childbearing, and are sometimes installed near or under the deity in the temple.
(Label for UMMA South and Southeast Asia Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject matter
The monkey Hanuman, often referred to as a monkey god, figures prominently in the epic, the Ramayana, telling the story of the incarnation of Vishnu and his war against the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. He is the most important of the monkey hosts and served important function in the story. He is often sculpted to fit into a set of sculptures depicting the god Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, and his brother Lakshman and his wife Sita. The groups sometimes signify the coronation of the god Rama, which is the end of the story, but sometimes the grouping is of them all standing. He has a devotional following of his own and is usually depicted as a human with a monkey’s head. In this engraving he takes a completely religious role being made up of devotional phrases.

Physical Description
Hanuman is depicted with a human body and a monkey head. The image is incised on the plate and his body is entirely textured with characters in the devanagari script. Often merely the letter ‘r’ designating the god Rama with whom he is associated. He is in a striding posture and there are a number of sections of text scattered around the image. At his feet is a human figure walking in the opposite direction. He holds a double flag consisting of two triangular shapes facing him in his left hand along with a thin club. One appears to emanating from his mouth? His right hand is lifted with an arrow above it and his tail curves behind him. There is also a small altar depicting the two feet of Rama in the area between his outstretched leg and the end of a scarf wrapped around his body.

Primary Object Classification
Ritual Object

Primary Object Type
figure

Additional Object Classification(s)
Metalwork

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Hanuman
Hinduism
maces (weapons)
monkeys (animals)
spear

& Author Notes

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