A few years ago I told a friend about
my discovery of the sphinxes of India. “Sphinxes”, he
said, “in India?” And exclaimed “Wrong country!”
During the course of my research at
first I encountered much opposition and resistance
against the idea that sphinxes were part of the Indian
artistic and ritual tradition. The purushamriga could
not be a sphinx, because it existed in India. It should
be called an anthropomorphic lion, not a sphinx. Calling
it a sphinx was Euro-centric and un-academic. But the
word ‘sphinx’ itself is a word from the Greek language.
In that case it should also not be applied to the Great
Sphinx of Gizeh, or any other anthropomorphic lion
outside Greece. This is how I think about it.
What is the reason behind this
opposition? And why is it that during the past two
hundred years or so of Oriëntalistic research into the
arts and traditions of India so far nobody noticed or
recognized the prolific presence of the mythological
composite being called sphinx?
From my understanding and my
experience, I have to draw the conclusion that some kind
of unrealized pre-concept exists about the Indian
civilization and its place in the history of humanity.
In a way the Indian civilization is placed apart, as
separate from the other ancient civilizations. Sphinxes
are not supposed to exist in India. Therefore nobody
ever noticed them. Discovering the Indian sphinx, and
presenting it before the world-audience and on the world
stage challenges this existing preconceived idea of what
India is, and what the place and meaning is of the
Indian civilization within the frame of world history.
I feel that the publication of my
article “Discovering the Anthropomorphic Lion in Indian
Art’, in the international magazine on Indian art and
its history, Marg, published in Mumbai by the Tata
Company (Volume 55, Number 4, in June 2004) constitutes
an international recognition and acknowledgement for the
existence of the sphinx in the Indian civilization.
The discovery of the role and
significance of the sphinx in Indian art and
civilization contributes to the wealth and beauty of the
Indian heritage. And it will bring a new understanding
of the place of India in the perspective of world
history. Its artistic expression shines a fresh light on
India and its place among the great civilizations of
ancient and modern times.