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Indian Art : “Diagrams of the Universe: The Two-and-a-Half Continents, the Universe in the Shape of a Person, and the Seven Levels of Hell” (1613)

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According to Jain cosmology, the universe is envisioned in the shape of a man. Above the waist are seven levels of heavens; below the waist are seven levels of hell. His midsection is the earthly realm, here shown as a round diagram with mountains and rivers, expanded at the left. The hell scenes are elaborated at the right.

The artist has incorporated a number of motifs, such as floral arabesques above the cosmic man and winged fairies surrounding the earth disk, derived from art of the imperial Mughals — the overlords of western India.

Credit Line: Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art.

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