Self and Image Creation in a Himalayan Valley

Making FacesTaberam Soni, Labh Singh, Amar Singh, and other artists live and work in the hill-villages of the lower Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, India. There they fashion face-images of deities (mohras) out of thin sheets of precious metal. Commissioned by upper-caste patrons, the objects are cultural embodiments of divine and earthly kinship. As the artists make the images, they also cross caste boundaries in a part of India where such differences still determine rules of contact and correspondence, proximity and association. Once a mohra has been completed and consecrated, its maker is not permitted to touch it or enter the temple in which it is housed; yet during its creation the artist is sovereign, treated deferentially as he shares living quarters with the high-caste patrons. Making Faces: Self and Image Creation in a Himalayan Valley, by Alka Hingorani, tells the story of these god-makers, the gods they make, and the communities that participate in the creative process and its accompanying rituals.

“With its close-up and theoretically sophisticated treatment of Indian artisans at work, this stimulating book raises important issues concerning the making of art in a religious setting. The author includes wonderful vignettes, such as a description of how to make a Kullu royal umbrella, and an artist’s charming story of the Sun and the Divine Architect. With its excellent and compelling color photographs, this well documented book deserves to attract a broad audience of readers interested in South Asian studies and in art history.” —Richard Davis, Bard College

September 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3525-5 / $45.00 (CLOTH)