Dr. Noel Salmond
Associate Professor of Humanities & Religion
Carleton University, Ottawa
Speaker at Gandhi Memorial Day
in Ottawa, Ontario on February 25, 2007.

This talk was based on the article authored by Dr. Noel Salmond and published in Sage Journals as "Both iconoclast and idolater: Gandhi on the worship of images" under Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, September 2002 31:373-390.

Note: This item requires a subscription to Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses.

Synopsis of the Talk “Gandhi and the Question of the Worship of Images”

The worship of images or "idols" is a practice that has been censured by some non-Indian religious traditions and even by some Hindu reform movements. Mahatma Gandhi defended image-worship because of his commitment to religious pluralism. If "all religions are true," then there is no ground to vilify the practice of any one of them. As a religious pluralist he felt obliged to defend the liberty of others to pursue religion as they see fit. Gandhi believed in the potency and efficacy of the imaginal. He saw images, symbols, and holy places as powerful human motivators, the life-blood of all religions - even those which claim to be image-less or iconoclastic. Gandhi regarded the sometimes crude and naive forms of popular piety as preferable to the cold, intolerant certainty of the iconoclast. For Gandhi, believing that one is idol-free is the most insidious (and dangerous) form of idolatry. He bridled at image-worship only when he was himself treated as an icon or divinity.

About the Speaker:

Dr. Noel Salmond, B.F.A. (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), M.A. (Concordia), Ph.D. (McGill), is Associate Professor of Humanities and Religion at Carleton University. He has been a Faculty Research Fellow with the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute in India, and is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. He is the author of Hindu Iconoclasts: Rammmohun Roy, Dayananda Sarasvati, and Nineteenth Century Polemics Against Idolatry ( 2004) and numerous articles on the relation between visual art and religion. His current research interests lie in modernist forms of Asian religion (Hindu and Buddhist reform and revival movements) and also in religious views of nature and religious responses to environmental crisis. His interests outside the academy include wilderness canoeing and flight from the world to the forests of the Gatineau hills.

Close this Window