Project Progress Updates
Continuing The Search For The Female Sufi Saints And Finding The Business Of The Blessing
Continuing The Search For The Female Sufi Saints And Finding The Business Of The Blessing

The evidence of new money from the Gulf is vividly evident at the shrine of the female warrior saind Beema Biwi. It is evident in the large, ostentatious and garishly pink structure that now surrounds what was once a small shrine.

A Temple Where I Begin To Understand That Neither Hindu Nor Muslim Means What We May Believe
A Temple Where I Begin To Understand That Neither Hindu Nor Muslim Means What We May Believe

The Hindu temple contains two shrines, both to men who were once Muslims. As I write last statement this I realize that the two religious categories mentioned here - Hindu and Muslim actually make little sense. The fact remains that neither the word Hindu nor the word Muslim used here describes a set of clear, precise, differentiated, and orthodox ideas of the two […]

The Salvation Of The Lunatic
The Salvation Of The Lunatic

His clairvoyance resulted in his being consigned to a lunatic asylum where he languished for nearly sixteen years. The news of his miracles however spread far and wide and the king Raghoji Rao, a devote Hindu who also become a devotee, finally ordered his release. Today his shrine on the outskirts of the town of […]

The Monsoon Washes Me To Maharashtra’s Eastern Horizons
The Monsoon Washes Me To Maharashtra's Eastern Horizons

The monsoon came with the shock of a slap, the walls of rain ensuring that I was left staring out of my hotel window for nearly three days straight. And though beautiful, and reminiscent of the joys of childhood, the monsoon rains for a photographer are nothing but a dead stop. With life in the […]

The Thangals And Way Of The Other Muslims
The Thangals And Way Of The Other Muslims

There seems to be little written about the Thangals of Kerala. Professor Hussain Randathani tells me that there is some original research that has been done on this line of Muslims in Kerala, but that most of it is in Malayalam and hence inaccessible to me. 

The Goddess Of The Sea
The Goddess Of The Sea

Some days later, there was a wild dance of the elements in Ponnani sea. The heavy clouds burst and brought the heavens down to meet the sea, which reached up and met it halfway, rising in mountainous waves…A fishing boat overturned. The sons of Ponnani were thrown into the water looked around in terror. All […]

At The Shrine Of Malang Shah Aulia And The Dance Of The Wandering Dervish And The Goddess
At The Shrine Of Malang Shah Aulia And The Dance Of The Wandering Dervish And The Goddess

When the Muslim wandering mystic died, the goddess Bhagavati buried him with her own hands.

The Kerala Phase Begins Or The Power Of The Feminine Divine
The Kerala Phase Begins Or The Power Of The Feminine Divine

I am finally in Kerala and beginning my work here with an exploration of the power of the female deity in Hindu, Muslim, and Christian spirituality. Each of the three religions venerate powerful goddesses (for the Hindus), saints and martyrs (for the Christians) and revered holy women (for the Muslims).

Wrapping Up The Gujarat Phase Of The Work
Wrapping Up The Gujarat Phase Of The Work

Its been a long, tiring two months in Gujarat’s heat, dust and paranoia. Behind the triumphant rhetoric of a fast industrializing Gujarat lie the quiet whispers of a fear and psychosis that colors most everything that happens here.

The Eunuch Goddess
The Eunuch Goddess

Note: This essay was originally published on March 21st. This is an update based on a recent meeting with historian Samira Sheikh who has generously provided me with her research into the legend and contested history of Bahuchara Mata. All updates reflect insights gained from her work. Ω A continuity of history has been erased […]

Seeing Myself In Another
Seeing Myself In Another

 

Dawn At The Dargah of Dadu Pir
Dawn At The Dargah of Dadu Pir

It stands there with its veneer of rude decay and abusive repair. Peeling paint, carelessly applied white wash, cracked and broken jalis (screens), gently leaning wooden doors held in place by rusting hinges, and large areas of carelessly applied cement to repair gaps in its walls. Sitting low to the ground, the mausoleum appears to […]

All Faiths Bring You To The Feet Of Haji Pir
All Faiths Bring You To The Feet Of Haji Pir

You can already see them on the roads leading up to this small town in remote Western Kutch. Pilgrims from as far away as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are slowly, determinedly making their way to the town of Naragram in the Banni region of Kutch, Gujarat. Many are on foot and carrying the green […]

The Shrine Of Hazrat Syed Ali Mira Datar And The Trace Of The Devil
The Shrine Of Hazrat Syed Ali Mira Datar And The Trace Of The Devil

Her face is a mask – without expression and stone hard. Her eyes stare into the distance, oblivious to the hundreds of men and women milling about the courtyard of the shrine. In the dying dusk light, under the glare of incandescent lights from the flower sellers inside the shrine complex, she lets out a […]

Gujarat’s Faded Testaments: The Parables Of Bet Dwarka
Gujarat’s Faded Testaments: The Parables Of Bet Dwarka

On any given day hundreds of Hindu pilgrims can be seen standing in the courtyard of Bet Dwarka’s famous Krishna temple. On the day of the annual festival, tens of thousands will congregate here. And on that special day, as on any ordinary day, the pilgrims would have been helped to cross the three kilometer […]

Gujarat’s Faded Testaments: The Shrine Of Data Pir, Junagadh, Gujarat
Gujarat’s Faded Testaments: The Shrine Of Data Pir, Junagadh, Gujarat

I don’t remember the names of those Muslims… but the ones who were there… they were handpicked and killed one by one. There was one Katki in Madhopura… whenever a riot took place, he was the first to come out… That day we targeted him and killed him. There were two advantages to that… it […]

Gujarat’s Faded Testaments: The Ideological Shadows Of Somnath
Gujarat’s Faded Testaments: The Ideological Shadows Of Somnath

Mahmud of Ghazni, a legendary looter, descended on Somnath from his Afghan kingdom and, after a two-day battle, took the town and the temple. Having stripped its fabulous wealth, he destroyed it. So began a pattern of Muslim desecration and Hindu rebuilding that continued for centuries. The temple was again razed in 1297, 1394, and […]

Gujarat’s Faded Testaments, April 28th 2010
Gujarat’s Faded Testaments, April 28th 2010

They were the seven minutes that changed India's future. At 7:43AM on February 27th, 2002, the Sabaramati Express, on its way from the city of Ayodhya, arrived at Godhra railway station. The train was packed with Hindu pilgrims on their way back from Ayodhya. During its standard four-minute stop a series of confrontations broke out […]

Sleepless In Lucknow Or How The Jaipur Literary Festival Became A Nightmare I Want To Wake Up From, February 9th 2010
Sleepless In Lucknow Or How The Jaipur Literary Festival Became A Nightmare I Want To Wake Up From, February 9th 2010

Lets begin by celebrating overt and rabid racism – Ayaan Hirsi Ali was at the Jaipur Literary Festival and I was left bereft with incredulity at the decision of the event organizers. Rather than create a genuinely interesting and intellectually serious environment around writers, thinkers, activists and intellectuals, the festival seems to prefer polemicist, celebrities, […]

No Words To Describe It Or A Daily Reality That Is Also A Daily Fear, February 6th 2010
No Words To Describe It Or A Daily Reality That Is Also A Daily Fear, February 6th 2010

There are words to describe an inability to find words. Speechless, dumbstruck, dumbfounded, silent, bereft of speech, tongue-tied, inarticulate, mute, dumb, voiceless, and probably others. But what words describe when you can’t find images? And what words describe when you keep missing them? There are no words really to describe this state of being, and […]

Towards The City Of Illusion & Past The Mists Of Memory, January 31st 2010
Towards The City Of Illusion & Past The Mists Of Memory, January 31st 2010

It is one of my most vivid childhood memories and it now returns to me with the clarity of a stereopticon as I sit here on cold winter’s dawn on a Delhi railway platform waiting to take the 6:00 am Shatabdi Express to Lucknow. It is the winter of 1972 and my scout troop, returning […]

On The Graves Of History, 28th January 2010
On The Graves Of History, 28th January 2010

I buy a postcard. It shows a black and white picture of a large group of local Keralan villagers standing around two tall, confident looking men who clearly do not belong to the local community. The two men, in shirts and pants, look back at the camera with confidence. The villagers however look at the […]

On The Milky Way To A Mosque, January 22nd 2010
On The Milky Way To A Mosque, January 22nd 2010

The words are beginning to dance in my head, and I can’t stop them from doing so. I am standing at the site of what is purported to be the first mosque built on Indian soil – the Cheraman mosque in the city of Kodungallur, but all that is running through my head is this […]

The Omnipresent Baba, January 22nd 2010
The Omnipresent Baba, January 22nd 2010

Baba Farid’s reputation and influence spreads from the regions of Punjab all the way down to the Southern tips of Tamil Nadu. I visited his main shrine in Pakpattan in what is now Pakistan while pursuing the story of one of the Mumbai attackers Ajmal Kasab Kasab ironically comes from the land of the people […]