Darshan: Artist Statement
Darshan is an ongoing series consisting of photographically recreated, classical images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses that are pivotal to mythological stories in Hinduism. Most commonly used in the context of Hindu worship, Darshan is a sanskrit word that means “apparition” or a “glimpse.”. Lead by the experiential nature of a Darshan, this series explores the delicate relationship between photography and representation.
Having left a ritual-driven community in India, my move to the U.S. precipitated an enormous cultural shift. It was this cultural paralysis that motivated me to use my one medium of worship–the camera–to study, construct and deconstruct the mythologies of my land. The goal was to turn multidimensional memories of sculptures and ornamental paintings of Hindu Gods, into two-dimensional photographs. For centuries, the way that we have experienced darshans (metaphysical connection established upon sight) is via laying gaze upon a molded figure, a carved statue or an illustration that represents a likeness to avatars described in Hindu scripture. This series of images invites the viewer to consider a photograph as means of spiritual engagement.
To make the imagery for the series, exhaustive research on each character lead to the assemblage of a diorama, by a team of approximately thirty-five Indian craftsmen who created props, sets, prosthetics, make-up, costumes, and jewelry to exacting specifications. Printed on a massive scale, these photographs are presented in an elaborate installation that resembles the experience of a Hindu temple... complete with incense, lamps, and invocation.
By bridging the gap between the significant ceremonies of my parents lives and my own mythology, this series has become my reason to immerse, question and push the boundaries of my faith, not only beyond my imagination, but beyond the very frame that surrounds the photograph.
Lord Vishnu is one who supports, preserves, sustains and governs the universe. Vishnu's consort is Maa Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Vishnu is usually described as having the divine blue color of water-filled clouds and as having four arms. In almost all Hindu denominations, Vishnu is either worshipped directly or in the form of his ten avatars, the most famous of whom are Rama and Krishna. Vishnu is also known as the granter of mukti or moksha to his devotees who deserve salvation from the material world. The Trimurti is a concept in Hinduismin which assigns the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction to Lord Brahma as the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer.
Maa Laxmi, Goddess of Wealth. Maa Lakshmi, or mother Lakshmi is the giver of fortune and prosperity. She not only bestows riches and known to bless the world for a well endowed abundant life. Also called Mahalakshmi, “Laksha” means an “aim” Maa Laxmi is believed to protect her devotees from a life of misery. Lakshmi in Sanskrit is derived from its elemental form lakS, meaning “to perceive or observe”. This is synonymous with lakshya, meaning “aim” or “objective”.
Lord Ganesha, The remover of obstacles. Lord Ganesha’s elephant head makes him particularly easy to identify. He is honoured at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies and invoked as Patron of Letters during writing sessions. Ganesha is the son Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati. The name Ganesha is a Sanskrit compound, joining the words gana meaning a categorical system or elements and isha meaning lord. Ganesha’s earliest name was Ekadanta (One Tusked), referring to his single whole tusk.
Lord Hanuman, The Monkey God ia an devotee of Rama, an Avatar of Lord Shiva worshipped for his physical strength, perseverance and devotion. The son of Vayu or Marut, the wind god. Lord Hanuman is known for his astounding ability to in- spire. Tales of Lord Hanuman are ripe with Heroic acts of valor and wisdom. Hanuman is known by many names as Anjaneya, Anjani Putra, Bajarangabali, Ma- haveer, Maruti and Pavanputra. It is said that Vrihaspati, the preceptor of the gods, as Tara, and Pavana, the god of wind, was reborn as Hanuman, the wisest, swiftest and strongest of all apes.
Maa Durga is known as the invincible Goddess. As a goddess, Maa Durga’s femi- nine power contains the combined energies of all the gods. Worshipped for her “Shakti” which means divine energy and power she is supremely radiant, multi- armed riding a tiger while maintaining a meditative smile. The name is made of Sanskrit dur- = “with difficulty”. As a goddess, Durga’s femi- nine power contains the combined energies of all the gods. The four day long Durga Puja is one of the biggest annual festival in india. It is celebrated likewise with much fervour in various parts of the country in various forms throughout the Hindu universe.
Maa Kali The name Kali comes from kāla, which means time in sanskrit. Maa Kali, also known as Kālika is the Hindu Goddess associated with empowerment as in Shakti. She is the fierce aspect of the goddess Durga. As the legend goes, in a battle against evil, Kali was so possessed by her killing spree that she got carried away and began to destroy everything that lay in her path. Maa Kali is multi-armed, with a sword in one hand and the head of a demon in another. One hand blesses her worshippers while a string of skulls act as necklace and a girdle made of human hands become her clothing. These hands and heads signify liberation from the cycle of karma.
Shiva is seen as one of the Supreme Gods. He is is the god of Destruction and Dance. Lord Shiva is usually worshipped in the abstract form of Shiva linga. He is represented as a handsome young man dancing the Tandava upon Apasmara, the demon of ignorance. It is said that He looks like an eternal youth because of his authority over death, rebirth and immortality. He is also the father of Ganesha. The Sanskrit word Shiva is an adjective meaning auspicious, kind, gracious.
In Hindu tradition, the creation of the cosmos is credited to Lord Brahma. Brahmā's wife is Maa Saraswati. According to the oldest scriptures, Brahmā is self-born in the lotus flower. Unlike most other Hindu gods, Brahmā holds no weapons. In one hand he holds a veda and in another he holds a string of prayer beads called the 'akṣamālā' (literally "garland of eyes"), which He uses to keep track of the Universe's time. Brahma presides over 'Brahmaloka,' a universe that contains all the splendors of the earth and all other worlds.
Maa Saraswati: Maa saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of music, education and the arts. In Hinduism, Saraswati represents intelligence, consciousness, creativity, education, enlightenment and eloquence. In India, it is customary that, out of respect, when a person's foot accidentally touches a book or any written material, which are considered a manifestation of Saraswati) it will be followed by an apology in the form of a single hand gesture with the right hand, where the offending person first touches the object with the fingertips and then the eyes, forehead and/or chest.
Making of Lord Ganesha