Illumination has many interpretations, from the simple brightening with light, to a deeper spiritual or intellectual enlightenment. In India, both of these concepts seemed to constantly be at play. Major temples and structures glow in the night, an ever-present reminder of their importance. Colorful, twinkly lights adorn restaurants and shops, inviting people to enter. There are many famous shots of the Taj Mahal and Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur at night. What really caught our attention, though, were the quiet illuminations of Khajuraho.
Most tourists visit this former cultural capital in the countryside of Madhya Pradesh to see the erotic carvings on some of its many temples. There are lots of interpretations for these erotic depictions (found only on the outside and in certain spots), but it is definitely a draw for the curious. While interesting to ponder whether these representations were intended to lead people to recognize our innate human desires and impulses in order to release them and seek higher knowledge, or something else, we quickly tired of the tittering tourists and spent more time in the cool darkness inside the temples.
Wandering from the front to back of each temple was like a journey. At the entrance, the floor was illuminated by the sun, while the sides were in shadow. Intricate carvings of deities and protectors lined the walls. The repetition of these columns was soothing, almost rhythmic. As you walk deeper, shadows gather until you arrive at the very back, an inner sanctum. While you’d expect it to be in total darkness, the architecture of the temples allows the central statue to be illuminated by reflected light, an amazing sight. Lingering there, we examined carvings from all angles, changing the focus based on darkness and light. Our experience was completely guided by these small pockets of illumination. After reflecting on this beauty created by humans, harnessing positive and negative energies, trying to make sense of their world and get closer to God (in whatever form each of us finds Him), we made our way back. The way was led by a tunnel of light reminiscent of what you see in movies representing heaven! Upon exiting, we were reborn into the sunlight of a bright Indian afternoon.
Links of interest:
WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination (with links to different interpretations)