About this object

History of use

Indian popular religious prints have been published for nearly a century, first by German presses, later by Indian ones. The prints may take the form of calendars, posters, or simple images. They are also used as book covers, cards, and packaging labels. The style of the representations is European. In the beginning they were Hindu images, but are now acquiring elements both of folk art and a romantic secularism. It is a living art currently influenced by the movie industry and non-Hindu religions. The images are a vehicle for advertising and are also used for religious purposes. This is a greeting card to celebrate the Ponkal Harvest Festival.

Cultural context

popular religious art

Iconographic meaning

Murugan, great integrator among divinities and perfect son of Shiva and Parvati, is the divine child and source of power, love, and wisdom. He is the warrior god who defeats Taraka, the evil demon/giant, with his lance, 'Sakti-vel'. When defeating a demon of ignorance, Murugan is shown with multiple arms. Also identified by: appearing together with Parvati, Ganesh, and/or Shiva; three white lines and third eye or ascetic symbol stating association with Shiva; attendant peacock, feathers of which have many eyes radiant of the sun; Brahminical thread across chest; moon, toy; red and gold in association with the earth and sun; and the rooster. Other names for Murugan are: Karttikeya, Skanda, Subrahmanya, and Kumara. Naming varies regionally. Ganesh, remover of obstacles, god of wisdom, protection, and guidance, and son of Shiva and Parvati, is identified by: elephant head; rat as vehicle, permitting Ganesh to remove obstacles where small size is needed; obesity containing entire universe; pot belly indicating prosperity in enterprise; three bands of ash or red trident as third eye, symbolizing relationship with Shiva; rice or sweet cakes, axe, noose, string of beads, and/or water vessel held in hands; water jar held by trunk; and swastika in palm to symbolize cyclical time.

Physical description

Small, rectangular card consisting of a glossy sheet of paper folded in half, widthwise. On the cover is small, brown-haired smiling boy, Murugan, seated on the back of large blue and green peacock in full display of feathers. Murugan is holding a lance upright in his right hand and is wearing a red dhoti, a white necklace over shoulder on right, gold jewelry and has three horizontal, white lines with red dot in middle of forehead. On the reverse is Ganesha seated on circular platform, grey rat grasping food ball at his side. He is holding three objects, in three of his four hands: gold noose, container with sharp projection from side, and food(?).Blurred white horizontal lines with red dot on forehead. Blue ground with swirling pale yellow clouds at top and on right side. Pencil line circles figure. Inside are black ink scribbles on left; blue Indian characters in poem-like arrangement on right. There are written names in ink underneath.