Deconstructing Kashmir – Part IV: Through The Gilded Windows Of Emperors
Deconstructing Kashmir - Part IV: Through The Gilded Windows Of Emperors

The settler makes history and is conscious of making it. And because he constantly refers to the history of his mother country, he clearly indicates that he himself is the extension of that mother country. Thus the history which he writes is not the history of the country which he plunders but the history of […]

In Defense Of Doubt Or How Intellectual Walls Have A Terrible Way Of Leaking
In Defense Of Doubt Or How Intellectual Walls Have A Terrible Way Of Leaking

Someone threw an egg at historian Wendy Doniger during a lecture in London in November 2003. Seven years later Wendy Doniger threw a book back at them. But more about this scholarly debate in a bit. – Reading Raymond Schwab’s masterpiece The Oriental Renaissance: Europe’s Rediscovery of India and the East 1680 – 1880 one […]

William Dalrymple Attends The Sabarimala Or How I Began To Worry That My Sabarimala Essay Will Not Be Good Enough
William Dalrymple Attends The Sabarimala Or How I Began To Worry That My Sabarimala Essay Will Not Be Good Enough

William Dalrymple has published a piece in The Guardian newspaper on the Sabarimala pilgrimage. This was the very pilgrimage I recently traveled to witness and wrote about in a Project Update post called Where Muslims Warriors Defend & Protest Hindu Gods. His essay arrives a few days ahead of my own. I am however posting […]

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 […]

The Trinity Of The Gods, January 14th 2010
The Trinity Of The Gods, January 14th 2010

The Chandanakudam festival will not begin until December of this year, but I am heading to the small town of Changanacherry because it is site of this unique event. The festival is the only known event where Hindus, Muslims and Christians celebrate and perform the festival rituals together, and explicitly take offerings to and receiving […]

Where Muslim Warriors Defend & Protect Hindu Gods, January 10th 2010
Where Muslim Warriors Defend & Protect Hindu Gods, January 10th 2010

It is perhaps one of the more unique Hindu pilgrimages in India. Its circuit takes the pilgrims through the domains of two Muslim men – a saint and a warrior, who are considered companions and protectors of the deity Ayyappa. The shrine to Ayyappa lies at the top of a mountain in Sabarimala, but the […]

The Search For The Bent Cross, January 7th 2010
The Search For The Bent Cross, January 7th 2010

I am searching for the Chapel of the Bent Cross in Cochin’s Matancherry district. The story goes that in 1635 the Syrian Christians who had forcibly been converted to Roman Catholicism declared their return to their original faith. The Kunan Kurisu Revolt as this is known marked the final divide between the Jacobites and the […]

Breathing Life And Death Into Gods And Men
Breathing Life And Death Into Gods And Men

   

Believers, Blasphemers and Beggars In Ajmer, The City That Love Built And Life Sustains
Believers, Blasphemers and Beggars In Ajmer, The City That Love Built And Life Sustains

When they celebrate the death anniversary of a saint, they come in crowds from far and near to his tomb; and reaching there on the day of the ‘urs’, they perform more devotions than they do for obligatory (Islamic) rituals. To solve their worldly problems, they address their supplications to the tombs…They pray to the […]

Beyond Boundaries by Pankaj Mishra
Beyond Boundaries by Pankaj Mishra

This essay is reprinted here by kind permission of Pankaj Mishra. The original piece appeared in The National newspaper and can be seen here. Pankaj Mishra is the author of four books, most recently The Temptations of the West: How to be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet and Beyond. But it was perhaps his writings […]

Laying To Rest The Ghosts Of Ayodhya – The Liberhan Report Unveiled
Laying To Rest The Ghosts Of Ayodhya - The Liberhan Report Unveiled

The demolition of the Ram Janambhoomi Babri Masjid took place on sixth of December 1992 in the presence of national and local leadership. Cadres of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal (BD), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena (SS) along with their leaders were present at the spot. They […]

Deconstructing Kashmir – Part V: Lost Paths To The Shared Or Historical Elisions That Divide
Deconstructing Kashmir - Part V: Lost Paths To The Shared Or Historical Elisions That Divide
Still Looking For Answers In Ayodhya / Liberhan Report Published
Still Looking For Answers In Ayodhya / Liberhan Report Published

What is happening in India is a new, historical awakening…Today, it seems to me that Indians are becoming alive to their history…Only now are the people beginning to understand that there has been a great vandalising of India…What is happening in India is a mighty creative process…the sense of history that the Hindus are now […]

The Rose Of Ajmer by Britt Sloan
The Rose Of Ajmer by Britt Sloan

Introduction: His life has been draped with legends, many of which tell of his miracles and powers. One of the most popular legends is of the evil wizard Jaypal who, on the orders of a local raja, attempts to drive the Sufi fakir Moinuddin Chiti away from the region and attacks him with burning coals. […]

Rajasthan’s Cheeta-Merat And The Battle For Their Souls by Radihika Saraf
Rajasthan's Cheeta-Merat And The Battle For Their Souls by Radihika Saraf

Introduction: The Cheeta-Merat (also known as the Kathat) defy all conventional conceptions of ‘Hindus’ and ‘Muslims’, and practice a unique syncretic religion that combines elements of Islam and Hindusim. This little-known community, with an estimated population to be about 400,000, is spread across over 100 villages in the vicinity of Ajmer and Beawar towns in […]

Deconstructing Kashmir-Part III: In The Silences Of A Blood Soaked Frontier, The Still Living Songs Of The Saints
Deconstructing Kashmir-Part III: In The Silences Of A Blood Soaked Frontier, The Still Living Songs Of The Saints

When the neighborhood was attacked, some members of the minority community were killed. The survivors fled. A couple however sought refuge in the cellar of their own house. For two days and nights they waited in vain for the assailants. Two more days passed. They were much less afraid of death. They longed for food […]

What’s Love Got To Do With It?
What's Love Got To Do With It?

The drive from Jammu to Srinagar takes about 12 hours by Sumo. That is what I had been told. It took me about about 12 hours to figure out exactly what a Sumo was. The public buses, small size mini vans in fact, that run regularly between the twin cities of Jammu and Srinagar, are […]

Deconstructing Kashmir-Part II: The Wandering Tribe: The Kashmiri Pandits In Purgatory
Deconstructing Kashmir-Part II: The Wandering Tribe: The Kashmiri Pandits In Purgatory

The alleyways are empty. The shops are closed. Wild dogs sleep in shaded corners. The temples are locked. I hear no human voice that would suggest life inside the small, gaudily painted brick shanties. I walk around in the narrow lanes expecting to run into someone, but no one walks towards me, in to me […]

Deconstructing Kashmir-Part I: In The City Of Temples: Negotiating Identity Through A Divided Jammu
Deconstructing Kashmir-Part I: In The City Of Temples: Negotiating Identity Through A Divided Jammu

Are you Muslim? It has become near impossible for me to know how best to answer that question. The response must be carefully negotiated in a part of India where whether you are Hindu or Muslim determines if you are welcomed or suspected. The process begins as I check in to a hotel. There are […]

Making Medieval Histories Or How To Name Ballistic Missiles
Making Medieval Histories Or How To Name Ballistic Missiles

Pakistan has said it will not rename some of its missiles, despite objections from Kabul which says Afghan heroes’ names are being misused. Afghan Information Minister Sayed Makhdum Rahin had asked Islamabad not to link Afghan rulers’ names with “tools of destruction and killing”. The missiles are named after Muslim conquerors who defeated Hindu rulers. […]

In Garbs Foreign: Temple Desecrations & Acts of Conquest
In Garbs Foreign: Temple Desecrations & Acts of Conquest

I think when you see so many Hindu temples of the 10th century or earlier disfigured, defaced, you realize that something terrible happened. I feel that the civilization of that closed world was mortally wounded by those invasions … The Old World is destroyed. That has to be understood. Ancient Hindu India was destroyed V.S. […]

Forever Spring: Ghalib’s Benares
Forever Spring: Ghalib's Benares

Varanasi, as Benares is now known, is a Hindu city. That is how I had known it, and it was not until I arrived here that I started to see a different side of it. And it happened because I could not find a hotel room! The hotel I had booked a room at refused […]

The Saints of Ayodhya: Sufis In The Hindu City
The Saints of Ayodhya: Sufis In The Hindu City

The Sufi dargahs of Ayodhya are easy to miss. Not only are they rather simple structures, often no more than a few graves surrounded by a some stones to demarcate an area of worship, but are obscured by the many dominating and magnificent mandirs that define the landscape of the city itself. So it was […]

A Mosque Too Far: Rusafa On The Barbarian Plain
A Mosque Too Far: Rusafa On The Barbarian Plain

The first time I saw the image I did not realize that it would significantly change the way I looked at the world around me. It was a drawing of an 8th century shrine to a Christian saint somewhere deep in the Syrian steppe, then known by the Greek speaking world as ‘The Barbarian Plain’. […]

The Persistence of Ayodhya: Wounds & Resistance
The Persistence of Ayodhya: Wounds & Resistance

I was asked to remain confined to my room.  The men from Indian intelligence were polite but firm, and as they questioned me in a small tea shop in a neighborhood adjacent to where the Babri mosque once stood, I could see that they were unsure about what precisely it was that I represented. I […]

On Samuel Huntington & The Use of History
On Samuel Huntington & The Use of History

Samuel Huntington, author of the book ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order‘, died on December 28th 2008. In an obituary in the New York Times, in a typically fawning obituary, thought it ‘uncanny’ i.e. a reflection of his brilliance, that in that book he had written (predicted?) that ‘Somewhere in the […]

Unraveling Bitter Threads: Faiz & Seeing The World
Unraveling Bitter Threads: Faiz & Seeing The World

The only man I have ever felt envious of was a ‘celebrity’ documentary filmmaker who once told an interviewer that his success was a result of his complete lack of introspection! Introspection has been the bane of my existence. I heard Faiz Ahmed Faiz before I ever read him.  His poem ‘Don’t Ask Me for […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part I of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part I of VI)

A few months ago I was asked by an editor in Europe to speak about my work, in particular my work in the Arab world.  She had seen some of my photographs from Northern Iraq that focused on the struggle of Iraq’s Assyrian Christian community as it confronted a resurgent Kurdish nationalism and a raging […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part II of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part II of VI)

EDITOR: In your opinion, is it possible for Islamic states to adopt secular systems of government, and to allow non-Muslim minorities to integrate in Muslim dominated political structures? Put another way, given the history and tradition of these areas, Iraq in particular, did the Americans have any choice other than to work with sectarian structures? […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part III of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part III of VI)

EDITOR:  By Islamic states I mean the countries that are majority Muslim and whose power structures are in the hands of Muslims. Iraq is not an Islamic theocracy, but it is surely an Islamic state. It’s history, tradition and values are shaped by Islamic religion and culture. Let us narrow the discussion. Let’s focus on […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part IV of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part IV of VI)

EDITOR: Whereas I agree with you that there is nothing inherently ‘Islamic’ about laws in many nations i.e. your statement is prima facie true. However, the question is what is the source of the common law of the land in Pakistan, in Iran, In Saudi Arabia? You will, of course, find examples of secular law […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part V of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part V of VI)

AR: I think you are being very liberal in your belief that European law begins with the Bible and that Islamic law begins with the Koran. To claim that Europe takes from the Bible and Morocco from the Koran is to indulge in a terrible simplicity that can only be achieved by suspending genuine intellectual […]

Dialog Between Bigots (Part VI of VI)
Dialog Between Bigots (Part VI of VI)

EDITOR: Spanish, French Portuguese and Italian derive from Latin, yet can one argue that today these are the same language? They have diverged to the point where they are mutually unintelligible and hence different languages. All Indo-European languages derive from Sanskrit (including Farsi), yet can one claim they are the same as Sanskrit? Christianity, Judaism […]

Distorted Histories And Holy Warriors
Distorted Histories And Holy Warriors

In the last few decades we have become accustomed to news of sectarian violence on the Indian sub-continent. In particular, there is a widening and violent rift between India’s Hindu and Muslim communities. But religious and cultural pluralism is a prominent feature of Indian life and has been her heritage for centuries. I am documenting […]

Dialogue Between Bigots: Part VI of VI

This is the final installment of the interview, part VI, of ‘Dialogue Between Bigots’ EDITOR: Spanish, French Portuguese and Italian derive from Latin, yet can one argue that today these are the same language? They have diverged to the point where they are mutually unintelligible and hence different languages. All Indo-European languages derive from Sanskrit […]