Sunday, July 25, 2010

Purring avatar's symbolism

 While drawing this and observing many Hindu icons I felt that this kind of pose and image composition has a sort of hypnotic effect, after a few hours I literally couldn't stop staring at it. It's not too strange since those icons are made to be displayed in homes and observed often, so they must have a very balanced look in spite of the wild saturated colors of most icons. Such icons have stood the test of time for millennia and have been invented indipendently in other cultures (like the Vitruvian Man drawn by Leonardo), so I'm tempted to think that a humanoid in this pose has some sort of subconscius relaxing effect on humans.

I did a lot of research on Hindu symbolism in order to make this picture with the right spirit and choose meaningful details. The official avatars are usually bound to an age of the world, and this is my avatar for the digital, post-industrial age which is beginning. Notes on the symbols:

- I already wrote why she is a snow leopard; they are "superstar" animals, mysterious, sexy, etc., and they strike the fantasy of most animal lovers.
- She's nude because in this age modesty is not very prized, people compulsively need to to show their goods, especially if they are young and/or feline. She has four breasts because everybody and their dog seems to have some exotic fetish.
- Maybe I'll enlarge the breasts as they are a symbol of abundance, and all in all we live in an age where a lot of people live better than their ancestors.
- The tie is a must, it's the most recognized symbol of Western society and economical power. But it can be appropriately worn by a Hindu deity because there is much mixing of symbols from different cultures, and we have to live with the results even when they look weird or uncanny.
- One hand blessing with the traditional gesture because spirituality is very much alive and people still look for comfort in such gestures.
- One hand holds a flaming wooden dagger. Natural resources make tools and grant great power, but they also run out.
- One hand holds three scrolls hidden by a veil. Traditional avatars could hold a scroll as a symbol of knowledge, but nowadays knowledge is so vast that one scroll is not enough. (She might also hold a CD in the final version.) But they are half hidden because, even though knowledge is more precious than even and a source of power, it is often despised and hidden away by veils and distractions, so that people are discouraged from pursuing it.
- The spear with three prongs is a traditional symbol which represents the three "guna", the three possible natures of worldly things: 1) things which are pure and just created (sattva), 2) things which have been altered (rajas), 3) things which are destroyed or dead (tamas). Some philosophies use the three categories to classify food, so natural food such as fresh fruit is considered more pure than cooked food, which in turn is more pure than heavily altered/manufactured food. This spear has two broken prongs and only the tamas prong left, because in our age stuff which is heavily manufactured and basically pre-digested is attempting to replace everything else.
- The axe is a traditional symbol too, it represents the wish to cut all bonds of the soul with wordly desires and material things. An old foolish ideal which is eventually crumbling to dust as we understand that mind and body cannot be separated. So her axe is crumbling too.
- The wounded paw is not a hand but a real quadruped's paw and represents the many suffering paws of the animal world. It is bandaged because we try to remedy some of the troubles, but it's not enough to heal the wound.
- Other anthropomorphic avatars like Ganesha never sport a tail, probably because it would make them "too animal". But this avatar is not a mythical animal: she is actually a fusion of human and animal at all levels, physical and spiritual, since we now understand that our future depends on biodiversity and the future of other animals. So her tail has to be prominent to remind of this. It will hold a lotus blossom, symbol of purity, because her tails is the most animal part of her and nowadays only wild animals seem to inspire with feelings of purity.
- The Karanda-makuta (head gear of lesser deities) is the only traditional symbol I have used as it is, but might be changed in some way for the final version.
- The bottom part of the throne will be shaped like a tree trunk/roots.
- Avatars are often depicted along with an animal which is their ride, for example Ganesha is shown with a harnessed mouse. I've chosen the kakapo as her ride as it's a very famous animal but also on the brink of extinction. One of many contradictions in our dealing with othe animals.
- The plate on the left contains traditional sweets of Northern India and the Himalaya region, where snow leopards may be found.
- The cup on the right contains maize cobs and Romanesco broccoli. Maize is the most powerful plant of the planet (if not the most powerful species in general) since humans in the USA and other Western countries are totally dependent on it for their food, so it deserves to be there. The other plant is there because in spite of all problems and ignorance there is a bit of diffused scientific culture, and a small effect of this on everyday life is that many people are fascinated by little things which are better appreciated by knowing the science behind them, such as the fractal broccoli.

The back of the throne was originally supposed to be shaped like a Mandelbrot set but I'll probably use a variant of Apollonian Gasket fractal instead since the set's border is too irregular and unsettling, while avatars are usually shown on thrones with regular, kinda reassuring shapes.