Post 13: Udaipur

[note: the following posts are being written after our return to the States. Forgive us.]

With the exhibit safely stored and sadly no meetings scheduled with potential sponsors, we decided to take a few days to relax. Udaipur, in Rajasthan, India’s Venice, was a perfect choice. We had met Arun Sharma, a miniature painter (no, not him—the paintings) at a Tribal and Folk Art exhibit at Birla in Kolkata a few years ago. His work is exquisite. We’ve stayed in touch. Arun lives in Udaipur and offered to pick us up at the airport and show us his favorite places. We stayed in a beautiful old hotel, close to the lake.  Small, winding streets seemed more like a European town than one in India.  Except for the cows.

Some of Arun’s places, such as the Sas Bhau historic site, were not on the regular tourist route and were mercifully empty, affording a rare opportunity to wander through history, to stand amidst temples seemingly still holding sincere devotion in their stones, the lack of contemporary worshipers notwithstanding. It reminded me of a summer I spent, when I was 18, helping excavate a late Neolithic hill fort in Dorset County, England. We unearthed a tomb and I remember being at the entrance to the tomb, transfixed by the notion that I was standing at the same spot where thousands of years earlier perhaps someone wept. There is power in old stones, in the effort that went into their assembly. This is one of the many reasons the destruction of historic sites and artifacts by religious zealots is so misguided and upsetting. These constructions are steps on a path; they are not the property of one culture or one historic period. They literally belong to all of us, hence their being considered World Heritage sites. Failing to understand the significance of these sacred places—even if one has no knowledge of or interest in the religious fervor that created them—is to forsake any awareness of a common humanity. It sees the world as isolated competing bubbles, as if we were all different species, a vision that can only lead to death and destruction, with no consciousness that it is the sum of every culture, every person, every belief, every story that makes us human.

Photos by Alan and Jerri

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