My new book on Indian art Mona Lisa does not smile anymore owes a lot to Rajasthan in general and Jhalwar in particular. As I travelled time and again to Rajasthan trying to learn the great history of art of India, I garnered fresh insights in the minds of Indian artists from this part of my beautiful country. The areas of Bundi, Jhalwar, Kolvi, Menal, Bijolia, Kota have a common cultural heritage. The people of these areas even today are saturated in their cultural traditions. Almost in all the wonderfully exquisite temples that I visited in this area even today reflect same kind of simplicity of faith that created these temples a 1000 years or so earlier. This is true of all the Rajasthan. I met in these pristine old temples the simple, poor folk of my country incomparable in the warm welcoming smiles and they gave affection strangers rarely get anywhere.
In this Blog post I express my deepest gratitude and thankfulness to these great Indian. What is heartening is that the spiritual and social light of these folks was understood very well by the artists, sculptors, painters of India from centuries past. On the wall of all temples are gods and goddesses but are also simple village folk who are carrying on their daily activities or are rejoicing in the music and dance. Such a cameo of the life of ordinary people I did not find anywhere in the world including Europe, where the focus is mostly on religious narrative.
Some European historians suggest that Indians being laid back and fatalist I have refuted in my Mona Lisa...book. Indians from time past never questioned or denigrated other cultures and faiths though they kept to their own in harshest of circumstances. The faith of Indians is a fine example of freedom in religion. There is no organised centralised religious control. There is no dominant religious authority that controls and guides the laity. The God is personalised and a village farmer or an artisan making pottery is as free to find his communion with higher powers as a rich industrialist living in a 2 billion dollar mansion.
I owe this insight to the common people of India who never hold themselves back from sharing their simple joys in religion and with other humans.