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Incarnations

 

Immersed in Indian culture while spending several months abroad in Kolkata/Calcutta, I found myself intrigued by the rituals and symbolism embedded within Hindu culture. Banyan trees are worshipped, often painted or wrapped in crimson threads; sidewalks and roadways reveal remnants of offerings and worship; idols are sculpted from straw and clay, then submerged in holy Ganga water, where the manmade object disintegrates and the divine entity within is restored back to her spiritual realm. Here, the divine takes many forms. Lives are believed to be reincarnated. Repetition is abundant.

 

This portfolio is part of my observation of a complex tradition steeped in mysticism. I found myself conflicted upon witnessing dozens of goddess idols abandoned curbside for trash collection, never fulfilling their spiritual rites of immersion due to regulations protecting against the pollution of local waterways. I photographed fragments of these sculptures and submerged prints for several days in the Hooghly River, a distributary of the Ganges (Maa Ganga). This was a way to resolve my question on which would be a greater loss; rituals within one of the world’s most ancient traditions or a natural resource as essential as water?

 

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