Lights at a roadside shrine

In his introduction to Tantra Song (written about previously here) Lawrence Rinder invites us into the world of Tantric images by describing how he feels when he is out in the countryside, looking at the trees and the stars:

I have little idea what I am looking at, even though I might be able to give it a name, or perhaps recall some principle of nature that has made it as it is. What I see is color, texture, shape. I see energy, evidence of change, and the transforming powers of life and death.

He goes on to draw an analogy to the experience of looking at mystical images such as those contained in Tantra Song:

Franck André Jamme’s collection of Tantric images affects me in a similar way. Just little scraps of paper really with barely a mark upon them. Simple. Anonymous. Repetitive. But utterly riveting. I can’t begin to say what these images are. I know virtually nothing about the tradition from which they spring…In these divine images, I find an echo of art.

It helps that I have a very broad definition of art…Maybe art isn’t quite the right word: let’s call them experiences that ground us in the real, images that cut to the quick of what we might be.

Rinder’s response to Franck André Jamme‘s collection of sacred Tantric images parallels my own response to those exquisite forms. It also played out for me again during my weeks visiting living Hindu temples in southern India.

Much has been written to denigrate the dark side of our Western proclivity to be idea tourists, shopping for concepts and tokens inappropriately stripped of their sacred cultural context. But there is a significant distinction between insensitive, sacreligious appropriation and the open mind/open heart position that Rinder describes. His words have helped me find a place of integrity to stand as I encountered these deeply moving rituals and celebrations. And even though I am not an expert on Hindu thought and will always be an observer looking in from the outside, I feel the connection to the “transforming powers of life and death” that are played out every day in these ancient shrines.


Inside the temple at Madurai


Chanting in the ancient temples of Hampi


Offerings of coconuts and flowers, ready for the pilgrims at Chamundi Hill in Mysore


Jain priest at the foot of the immense statue of Lord Gommateshwara


Hindu variation on milagros


Temple entrance, Madurai


Altar at Madurai


Nandi in the Shiva temple at Madurai


Generally inclusive, Hindus have their limits too


Puja procession at Madurai


Putting the gods to bed…Madurai


Temple elephant at Thanjavur: A coin offering gives you a gentle tap on the top of the head


Sacred lingam at Thanjavur


Brahmin family’s prostrate offering at Kanchipuram


Gods adorned, a sign of being cared for


Pilgrims in Chidambaram, a part of life


Wise men in the digital age


Ornamenting the tree


Offering to Nandi, in Kanchipuram


Reader at Sri Kanchi Kamakshi temple

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