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Old 18.11.2011, 11:24
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Playing Indiana Jones in Switzerland

My grandfather was a traveller. In a time that was dangerous to leave the country, due to world wars and national dictatorships, my grandfather left his family behind and took off to see the world.

He told me wonderful stories about his trips to Canada, Moçambique and remote countries in Asia I can no longer remember.

I feel sorry for my mother because she grew up without her father, but I will never forget the days I visited my grandfather and heard all about his travels. He brought a lot of art objects back with him. He had many in exhibition in his little home (which looked like a cluttered Howard Carter study). There was one in specific that the 6 year old me loved to gaze upon:



Grandfather had no idea what it was. All I got to know was it was bought somewhere in India, maybe, probably not, and represented an Asian divine entity. Who, what, when, how were questions left for my 6 year old mind to find out by imagining wonderful mystical stories about the daemon rooster, the turtle and the snake. It also lead to an absurd fascination to a gigantic country on the other side of the world which I knew nothing about.

Meanwhile, my grandfather died. The statue was left to my mother. She kept it because it was something from her father, but she hid it in a dark corner of our home. She loves art, but being a fierce catholic, she is superstitious and suspicious of demonic looking unknown gods. So I was left admiring it in hiding, and continue the stories about the great flight of the rooster god, which looked all but demonic to me.

I looked for the origins of the statue as a teen. It had become the family mystery, and I, as an archaeological wannabe, took the matters into my own hands. But at the time I was a teen, there was no such thing as internet. There was only gigantic libraries with A6 paper records stuffed inside wall high cases. And what was I going to look for? “Possibly Indian deity statues”?

I failed Indiana Jones when I let the mystery sleep for 10 years. Then I moved to Switzerland. Last Christmas, my mother, knowing how much I loved the statue and all the mystery around it, gave it to me as a token to remember my grandfather, the guy who inspired me to pack my stuff and leave the dreadful backwaters of the home country.

I gave it an honour place on my table and decided to give it another try and go for the internet. Being older and a bit more knowledgeable, I tried going with Hinduism. Got to Vahana. Ok, I’m getting closer. Problem though: is the human figure a woman or a man? Is the mount a rooster, a peacock, a crow? My knowledge on Asian art sucks way more than I thought.

I was about to give up. Then one Friday, Heavens knows why, I took one of the free pointless teeny magazines “Friday”. What do I find inside? An interview with some teeny star and a reference to the Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg. And plastered on the top a very familiar image.



Following Google, I got to the museum collection and, thanks to the Swiss teeny magazine, I solve the decades long mystery:

http://www.voelkerkundemuseum.com/66...html?showPic=2



Internet is awesome. Knowing the God represented took me to Hinduism summarized stories. Three of the 4 figures had finally a name: Vishnu, Garuda and Naga and a possible country of origin: Indonesia (though I suspect was actually bought in Timor). They also had a real story which I could add to the thousands of childhood ones I had presented them.

I’m still trying to find out the name and story of the turtle. But I think Indy would be proud of me.

And that’s how Switzerland solved an almost 40 year old family mystery.


*storyteller out*
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Old 18.11.2011, 11:45
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Re: Playing Indiana Jones in Switzerland

I love mythologies and got lots and lots of different books on world mythologies. You inspired me to reread this particular myth about Garuda. I remember he was one of the protagonists in the Mahabharata. By the way, you should see the adaptation of Mahabharata by Peter Brook. Breathtaking.
I'll get back to you when I find the bit about the turtle.
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Old 18.11.2011, 11:48
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Re: Playing Indiana Jones in Switzerland

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I love mythologies and got lots and lots of different books on world mythologies. You inspired me to reread this particular myth about Garuda. I remember he was one of the protagonists in the Mahabharata. By the way, you should see the adaptation of Mahabharata by Peter Brook. Breathtaking.
I'll get back to you when I find the bit about the turtle.
Awesome thank you for the tip!

I was a complete queen of the nerds when I was younger. I used my Easter holidays closed inside the public library reading books on Roman and Greek mythology (which was pretty much the only thing you could get your hands on at the time, but it was worth it )

Let me know if you find out who Miss Turtle is! I've been reading stories in the Internet, but until now haven't found any Garuda stories involving a turtle. Might have to dig deeper into Vishnu background.
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Old 18.11.2011, 11:57
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Re: Playing Indiana Jones in Switzerland

Quality stuff! A story like this, properly fleshed out, belongs in the New Yorker.

Now I really have no expertise in this, but is the turtle not the one that holds up the world?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_turtle#India

Scientists are fond of the infinite regress argument based on the turtle as well:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down

Thanks again for the wonderful account, it made for the best read on EF this week.
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Old 18.11.2011, 12:03
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Re: Playing Indiana Jones in Switzerland

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Now I really have no expertise in this, but is the turtle not the one that holds up the world?
Actually, that is one of the stories I got into my childhood inventions because I probably got it indirectly from one of the books I read about India. Or one of the movies about the English Empire and India... Or, maybe I knew the story before from a previous... *cough* *cough*

I always nicknamed the turtle "The World". But I thought I was just being fancy and big headed, and it probably is some obscure character I know nothing about and I probably have to travel back to Asia to find it out *cough* *cough* maybe that convinces someone about letting me fly back again

I'm happy to see I'm not the only one to have considered the possibility
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Old 18.11.2011, 12:09
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Re: Playing Indiana Jones in Switzerland

The tortoise mystery is explained here in detail:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/hmvp/hmvp44.htm

I was right, the story comes from the Mahabharata. I have a copy but in Polish.
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Old 18.11.2011, 12:16
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Re: Playing Indiana Jones in Switzerland

I seem to have some problems with the internet... Can't access the site (or anything other than this forum... odd)

Hope I can read it when I get home

Ok, finally got to read it. The turtle has no name It seems to be a random tortoise that was fighting with an elephant and got eaten by Garuda...

*ish sad*

Would have been cool to see an Elephant included in the sculpture too...

Last edited by Helm; 18.11.2011 at 12:28.
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Old 18.11.2011, 12:23
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Re: Playing Indiana Jones in Switzerland

What a wonderful story, and what an amazing coincidence!
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art, family story, garuda, hinduism, indonesia




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