Shop by Category
Lotus in the Stone: Sacred Journeys in Eternal India

Lotus in the Stone: Sacred Journeys in Eternal India

by   Anuradha Goyal (Author)  
by   Anuradha Goyal (Author)   (show less)
Sold By:   Garuda Prakashan

Short Descriptions

A travelogue like no other, A guidebooks to India and its temples and hidden gems that you will cherish. Lotus In The Stone takes us on a journey to the dizzying array of deities, temples, festivals, rituals, art, architecture, applied sciences and living traditions of India, that is Bharat, bringing us to an understanding of the sublime, advanced society her culture nurtured. With her experiences and adventures in crisscrossing Inda for decades, the author shows us how ancient India's surviving heritage and living traditions are a testimony to her history and the invisible threads and sacred geography that bind her people together.

More Information

ISBN 13 9781942426349
Book Language English
Binding Paperback
Edition 1st
Release Year 2020
Publishers Garuda Prakashan  
Category Non-Fiction  
Weight 250.00 g
Dimension 14.00 x 2.00 x 22.00

Product Details

C o n t e n t s

Stepping Out Beneath the Veneer

Strands of Living Culture

Warp and Weft of Shared Stories History Belongs to the Geography When Deities Too Travel

Devi and the Roots of Feminism in India Heritage through the Lens of Engineering Relearning the Language of Time and Space What is My Dharma?

Until Our Paths Cross Again

Acknowledgements Glossary

Select Bibliography

Stepping Out

A distance of thousands of miles can be covered even by a tiny creature like an ant, if it keeps on walking slowly but consistently.

In the cold January winter, I was standing amidst a million strangers in Prayag, observing the transient world from a transient land as part of a cyclic event. The Kumbh Mela is a microcosm of the world, as it is created, lived, and dissipated. On the temporary flood plains created by the receding waters of the Ganga and the Yamuna, at the point of their confluence, a miniature world comes up for a couple of months. People from all over the country come here to spend time for various reasons. From curious tourists who want to see the Naga Sadhus to sadhus from different akhadas who come here to fulfil their periodic meeting with the world and with other sadhus, all kinds of people turn up at the Kumbh Mela. It is the longest living cultural tradition of India. The scale may have gone up or down during different phases of history, but it has continued unhindered. Its power lies in the fact that no one owns it, and at the same time, it belongs to everyone. It belongs to the one who turns up to be a part of it. No one invites anyone, and yet, everyone turns up on the banks of the holy rivers on the right date and time. In it, I also saw the power of the panchang, the Indian calendar in full force. Most of us who grow up in urban settings do not even know our birthdays by the panchang, but here, you see half of humanity turning up based on that very panchang. Is it the panchang’s way of saying it still rules this land?
At the Kumbh Mela, I saw human behavior at its best ever. I was traveling alone and on the first day, I held my bag close to my chest. If someone decided to snatch it, it may be easier to find a needle in a haystack than a thief at the Kumbh Mela. Getting lost in the Kumbh Mela was a phrase embedded in our psyche by our filmmakers. Towards the end of the day, I loosened up and held my bag as freely as I would hold it anywhere else. By the next day, I could comfortably leave it on the side while having my chai at a tea stall. I knew no one was going to pick up my bag. This transformation in my own behavior in less than twenty-four hours was nothing less than magic. Hundred thousand so-called strangers around you, and you feel you are amongst your own family—this seems unbelievable, incomprehensible, until you feel it. I do not recall anyone touching me even by mistake during those few days that I was walking around the mela grounds, despite all the crowd. Policemen responded to queries with folded hands. There was free food for everyone, everywhere. Even at food stalls and chai shops, no one asked for money. When I tried to pay before I ate, they requested me to first eat and then pay, and only if I liked the food.
On an early morning boat ride to the sangam, there were just two women on the boat—me, and Kiran from Bihar who was there with her husband. They created a natural shield for me without any need of it, and without my asking for it. That day, I was just trying to capture some images of the sangam and had not really planned to take a dip in it. Kiran would listen to none of it and insisted that I must take a dip now that I had come to the sangam. When I told her that I was not carrying clothes to change into, she pulled out a sari from her bag and handed it over to me. I was hesitant, for we had met just then on the boat, and would probably never meet again after we got down from the boat. But she insisted, and I did take a dip in her sari, and she simply took back the wet sari and said she would dry it along with the rest of their clothes. This is not a social behavior we see very often, and I would totally understand if you do not believe me here; I too would have found this difficult to believe, if I had not experienced it myself.
I have worked in the space of business innovation earlier and have been a strong advocate of intersectional innovation which essentially says that creativity happens at the intersection of two different dimensions or spaces. The Kumbh Mela is a place where I literally saw this in action. Sadhus who have renounced the world come over here to meet the world. Most of them are inaccessible to people at large most of the time, but at the Kumbh Mela, you can just walk up to them and interact with them. Meanwhile, worldly people like me leave their worlds behind to lead the life of a sadhu here, for a while, as kalpavasis. These two sections of society meet at a place created temporarily by nature and by man, and it goes through a cycle every twelve years.
At the Kumbh Mela, artists of all kinds presented their poems, songs, and art works of all kinds, be it in the streets or inside the well-equipped tented auditoriums. Books and libraries were never far away. This was the world’s largest conference happening in autopilot mode. Imagine how many ideas can take birth here.
This was utopia right in front of my eyes. I could trust anyone within the mela grounds even though I knew that the same person could behave differently just outside the grounds. Remember, no one was forcing us to behave, we behaved well on our own, driven by some deep-rooted inherent belief that most of us may not even be aware of. I cannot put my finger on the one thing that was creating this unbelievable environment. One just wishes that the mela grounds expanded to cover the entire world, and that its timeline expanded to match our lifetimes. Wishful, I know, but this is a place that gave me a lot of hope for the future. I had an absolute sense of belonging. It felt as if I was a part of each of the persons present there, and they of mine—a feeling I had never before experienced, and never later.
I guess this is a good juncture to look back at the incredible journey I have had, from being unaware of spiritual traditions to becoming someone who wants to spend the rest of her life exploring her own cultural roots— traveling across the sacred geography of India and reading the age-old wisdom in our scriptures.