Saturday, July 09, 2005

July 9-12

The workshop set off for a four-day (three night) tour of the Jaipur region in Rajasthan. In Jaipur and Amber students we were introduced to the culture and history of the Kachhwahas, a Hindu Rajput princely family that during the 16th through 18th centuries were the loyal supporters of their Muslim Mughal overlords. We visited the fort at Amber where we rode elephants to the top. We also visited the City Palace in Jaipur and attended darshan, that is the opening of the curtain to have auspicious sighting of the deity, in the Govinda Deva temple, which gave insight into the performative aspect of Hindu devotion. The workshop also visited a modern temple, known as the Lakshmi Narayan Birla temple, giving us insight into the changes that Hinduism has undergone over the last several hundred years. In nearby Sanganer, we visited a Jain temple, thus exposing us to yet another important minority community of India, one that frequently served as the bankers of jewelers of India’s princes whether they be Hindu or Muslim. We were also able to visit Salim’s Paper Factory where magnificent hand made paper is produced for international consumption. In addition they learned about the role Jaipur’s Muslim community had in the production of the arts in this Hindu principality. One day was spent visiting Ajmer, the site of India’s most important Muslim sufi shrine, the dargah of Muin al-Din Chishti, and Pushkar, a major Hindu pilgrimage site. At each place the students were introduced to important keepers of temples and shrines who spoke to the workshop about their own religious traditions. Particularly exciting was our contact in Pushkar, a Hindu priest, who contacted his friend, a Muslim custodian at the shrine in Ajmer, telling him to show the group around. This tradition of mutual cross-religious cooperation made a strongly positive impression on all of us.

On the return to Delhi, the group stopped at the AIIS headquarters in Gurgaon, just outside of Delhi, for a performance of qawwali, the sort of music that is played and sung at sufi shrines. While we had heard this at the Ajmer shrine, they enjoyed tremendously the two-hour concert. Afterwards the AIIS hosted a dinner at the Center.


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