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In search of god

india Updated: Oct 23, 2009 22:44 IST
Amit Pasricha
Amit Pasricha
Hindustan Times
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Spirituality is a shining thread running through every motif of the rich and complex tapestry that is India. There is a god, guru, festival, ritual or a taboo for everything — the seasons and cycles, birthdays and marriages, wealth and work, crime and punishment.
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Inside a small akhara in Mysore during Vishwakarma Puja

For Indians of every faith, their ordinary, everyday kind of spirituality is the axis that balances the temporal with the eternal. The potter who consecrates his clay before he shapes the image of a devi, the ayurvedic masseur who prays over the patient on his table, the shopkeeper who touches his wad of money to a picture of Laxmi, goddess of wealth, or common folk who bow in tearful reverence to television actors in popular mythological costume dramas.

‘Spiritual India’ does not differentiate between the sacred and the profane, the material and the celestial. The gods and holy books have as much to say about diets, hairstyles, sexual proclivities and personal hygiene, as about the great existential truths.

My project attempts to pin down and visually seize that ephemeral quality often described by outsiders as ‘the spirit of India’. It seeks out meditative moments and momentous ones; exalted and exultant. And it does so in the panoramic format, in unintended but appropriate consonance with the wide, encompassing nature of ‘Spiritual India.
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Women going back home after watching the Muharram procession in Srinagar

This is a collection of very large-format, pan-Indian panoramas. The photographs are created by digitally stitching together sections of the image. It goes a step further from earlier panoramic photography that was largely un-peopled and lacked a sense of life and movement. The ‘Spiritual India’ images are candid pictures as opposed to still life. The subjects are up-close and yet set in a very wide context. It is a photographic exercise that seamlessly segues the macro with the micro, the landscape with the individual. Two centres of focus, not one.

Human gaze is seamless and the boundaries of our vision are blurred. I mimic that with my images where the boundaries are arbitrary.

Amit Pasricha has published several books such as ‘India: Then and Now’, ‘The Monumental India Book’, etc. His next, ‘Spiritual India’ will be out in 2010.