Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012
In a service led by Eric Lott in a nearby Church, he explored the meaning of the text "Allow the Children to come to me"--which has been a theme that seems to appear often in the context of a society where play in the form of sports seems to have an even more important role in cultural life than prayer. Religion is often thought of as something essentially joyless, a duty that has to be performed, out of fear of a God who seems to often forbid the very things that give us pleasure. This could be the legacy of a very puritanical understanding of religion, which seems not to celebrate the body, and all that the senses enjoy. The child in all of us is essentially playful. This has certainly been an important aspect of Hindu thought, where Creation is understood as arising out of the Divine playfulness. As an artist I feel that this is something we need to re-discover.
Eric Lott, ordained in the Church of South India, often exercises his priestly role in the local Church of Old Dalby. There are also other small Churches scattered in the folds of the hills and woodlands of this part of the country. These often go back a thousand years. Even though British society is now very secularized, there is a sense of belonging to this very English form of cultural life, where the local Church still acts as a focal point. The building is part of the landscape, and has acted as an axis around which community life in the countryside has revolved over many centuries.
View of Dalby in the Wold (Old Dalby)
During my recent travels in the U.K. I tried to record some of my impressions in the sketch book that I carry with me. In a sense this journey has been a continuation of my earlier expedition in the Wyanad not so far from my home in a village near to Bangalore. That trip I kept an account of under the title "Honey Gatherers". The concept of food gathering, which goes back to our ancient migrant cultures can be understood in a new way as we become Global citizens. Travelling abroad has always been a source of inspiration to writers, painters, and others for whom crossing boundaries both geographic and cultural is an enriching experience. In the following images I hope to express some of my own thoughts related to travelling abroad, and also to finding new ways of discovering the spirit of a place.
Sunday, July 1, 2012
The Hamsa is a mythical bird which is supposed to cry "Ham-sa-ham-sa" as it crosses the high peaks of the Himalayas. This cry of the migrant swan is an affirmation "I am that", and is a manifestation of the Word, which is also the mystic sound AUM, that echoes in the heart of the cave which is within the mountain.
The mystic bird who is often referred to by Kabir as the Hamsa, is a symbol of the spirit or the soul of the searcher. This bird crosses over all boundaries, flying from this world which we experience with our senses, to another world or desh, which is an inner landscape. The bird is itself like a seed that takes wing, and finally takes root in another land of the spirit.
The spiritual language of Santh Kabir is full of mysterious opposites. A bird which belongs to another world, like the Persian image of Phoenix, is coming from the land where there is no sun or moon. This bird of the heavens comes down to the earth, where it meets the serpent which also symbolizes the waters that lie hidden in the depths of the soil. In the songs of Kabir heaven and earth meet in what he often refers to as the "Gagan Mandala", the circle that embraces what is above and what is below in the fiery egg, or germ of life.
The image of the inverted tree which we find in the Upanishads, can also be related to an up-side-down language, used by mystics, that apparently seems to be illogical. The external tree which we observe with our senses, can be compared to a spring of life which comes up from the depths of the earth. The leaves of this tree are like fishes.
There are two aspects of Kabir the Poet. One is the active external self, which lowers Kabir the inner poet, to discover the source of inspiration within the depths of his own being. This inner Kabir is enclosed within a pot which is itself overflowing. From this inner space of the well, a tree of life is growing.
The image of Santh Kabir dreaming relates to an inner journey. Kabir is himself like a well. The image of the up-side-down tree is to be found in the Upanishads. Here this inverted tree is related to the concept of a plant that grows up from the depths, like a spring of water welling up from within Kabir's own dreaming body.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Already from far away, we are drawn by the image of the Holy Mountain. It is like the spire of a Temple, or a Cathedral. Symbolically, it is the axis of the universe. Everything seems to be drawn towards this focal point. The road seems to draw us towards the mountain. For me the landscape is always a spiritual sign. The landscape reminds us that the spiritual reality has to be incarnated into the every-day, embodied in the forms that we see around us. The earth is the body of God.
There is a relationship between the mountain and the shrine The shrine is like a window through which we can see and understand the significance of the mountain. In a way, the shrine represents the microcosm--it is on the human scale of the worshipper The mountain, on the other hand is like a finger that points to a cosmic dimension. Here the shrine is dedicated to Ganapathi who is the guardian of the fields. He is a popular deity who speaks to the hearts of the peasants who work the land around the base of the mountain. Seen from one angle, one can notice that the form of the mountain is not unlike that of the seated, earthy figure of Ganapati.
The Mountain can be circumambulated. In that way it is like a primordial sculpture, which can be seen from different angles as we approach it from different perspectives. But the landscape that is related to the mountain also reminds us of the different seasons. It is the link between earth and sky. In the mountain we see how the moods of the sky effect the different moods of the landscape, and particularly the fields that lie at the base of the mountain. This images tries to picture the season of rains, when the great rock that points up towards the sky, becomes the recipient of the gift of life giving waters that flow down to irrigate the land beneath the mountain. This in fact is the basis for the ancient myth of the way in which the Shiva gave the Ganga to renew the earth which was parched as a result of a terrible drought The myth of the 'descent of the River Ganges' is represented in one of the earliest monolythic masterpieces of Indian Classical art on the rock face of the temple complex on the seashore at Mahaballipuram
Shiva Ganga, the Holy Mountain that is not far from where we live in Silvepura, is a place that we have often visited as a family, and I have represented it in landscapes based on views of the mountain taken from different sides This face of the mountain is related, according to local tradition, to the image of Ganapatti, the Lord of earth spirits (Ganas) who are associated with the Hindu deity Shiva. In fact from ancient times Shiva has been associated with mountains, and storms. In that way Shiva can be compared to the ancient Hebrew belief in the archangel Michael, who is also often linked to the manifestation of the Divine that takes place on mountains, like Mount Sinai in the Biblical tradition.
A group interested in the forest as having a language of its own, went into the forest in Wyanad to gather impressions. These were given form through poetry, but also installations, using objects that had been gathered from the forest.
I can’t hold
The shadows and the sunlight,
The spaces and the stillness ,
The slight stir of movement
Or the sounds of falling ripeness.
I can’t hold
The order of disorder
And the mingling of meetings
Layer upon layer,
Side by pulsing side.
I gather just some syllables
That alone mean nothing
But when together
Sing a world.