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Muslim-majority Indonesia gifts Saraswati statue to US

Last Updated: Sunday, June 9, 2013 - 10:45

Washington: Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, has gifted an imposing 16 feet statue of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of education and wisdom, to the American Capital city of Washington DC.

The statue of goddess Saraswati on top of a lotus flower, stand tall a block away from the Indian Embassy in front of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi which was installed several years ago.

Just three per cent of Indonesian population is Hindus.

Little over a mile from the White House, the statue is yet to be formally inaugurated, but has already become an attraction of city residents and the large number of tourists who visit the city every day.

"Dewi Saraswati is one of the Goddesses in Hinduism, the primarily practiced religion among Balinese people in Indonesia, which itself is the world`s biggest Muslim-majority country.

Yet, her representation at the Indonesian Embassy was not decided out only of any religious grounds, but more on its symbolized values that parallel with several key principles of Indonesia-US relations under comprehensive partnership, in particular education and people-to-people contact," a spokesperson of the Indonesian Embassy told PTI.

A cultural gift from Indonesia to the city of Washington, DC, this statue began to be constructed mid-April this year by five native Balinese sculptors led by I Nyoman Sudarwa, wrapped up the job in a mere five-week period.

"Although the official inscription is yet to be honored, the public can readily enjoy this 4.9-meter tall statue today by the entrance to the Embassy building on Massachusetts Avenue," the spokesperson said.

Prior to its installing, the structure of the statue was first built in Bali and later flown to the US Capital in early April 2013. This steel structure was divided into three parts: upper body, lower body, and base, the latest consisting a formation of a lotus flower and a white goose.
Furthermore, instead of using bronze or stone, the sculptors opt for a mix of cement to model the body of the statue.

"At its conclusion, this statue evidently presents a strong flair of Balinese art as the sculptors put particular touches of gold on the predominantly radiant white figure, especially on the dress and head accessory worn by the Goddess," the official said.

In the status, goddess Saraswati is depicted to be having four hands: one holds an "aksamala" (prayer beads) symbolizing the eternal process of learning; two play a "vina" (a string instrument) symbolizing arts and culture; and the last one holds a "lontar" (manuscript) symbolizing the source of knowledge.

Additionally, the lotus that she stands on illustrates holiness and purity of knowledge, while the white goose depicts wisdom that knowledge is hoped to bring.

"With these culturally dense symbolizations, it is expected that the erection of this statue could help promote the importance of mutual understanding within the diverse society we are increasingly having today," the Indonesian spokesperson said.

The installment of the statue was initiated by the Indonesian Ambassador to the US, Dr. Dino Patti Djalal, with the support of the chairman of the National Economic Committee as well as the Badung regent in Bali.

First Published: Sunday, June 9, 2013 - 10:31
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