India teems with life and with religious activity, and despite sporadic outbreaks of communal violence, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, Jains, and Sikhs live side by side. This extraordinary volume is filled with full-color photographs by Dinesh Khanna of the sacred life of India in all of its diversity. Pico Iyer (Abandon, The Global Soul), setting his work in a context that makes it both amazing and understandable, writes: "A part of India's magic, I think, is that it draws together so many cultures and centuries: you will find the high blue heavens of Tibet, the madonnas of Europe, the designs of the Arab world and even the shrines of cyberspace wherever you turn in India."
Iyer is awed by the profusion of colors in the street scenes, rituals, and communal gatherings captured by Khanna. And he is impressed with the photographer's eye for devotional activities in every conceivable setting from household worship, in temples and annual celebrations where the deities are paraded through the streets, to shrines on the walls of buildings. The Hindu tradition encompasses perhaps the longest and most elaborate history of ritual on earth.
The book is divided into sections on the silent moment, the sacred space, into the world, and the living encounter. Some of the images in the first section include a woman on a riverbank with a bowl of consecrated water, Jain devotees changing into red and orange unstitched clothes before entering a temple for worship, copies of the Qu'ran and other sacred texts at a Sufi shrine, and a Tibetan Buddhist monk with his prayer wheel and beads. Iyer comments: "Prayer, the act of worship, takes a passing moment, something small, and makes it last forever."
In the last section, we see how religion takes place within every nook and detail of Indian life. Here are images of a fair on the day of the full moon, Hindu pilgrims getting their heads shaved, a flower bazaar near a temple, a priest giving Lord Hanuman's statue its morning bath, and Jain nuns walking barefoot down a highway. "The pilgrim teaches us that every step is a step towards a holy place," writes Iyer.
With this stunning collection of photographs, Khhana's own spiritual practices of attention, being present, wonder, and imagination make it possible for us to linger with these people and come to a fresh appreciation of the richness of devotional activity in India.