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India is a land of diversity and more so in its spiritual life. The sacred is present in every walk of life and yet it remains a secular democratic republic. And though India is officially secular, religious law too is recognised. Worship and Ritual play an important role in the daily life of Indians and most of the population belong to a religion. Pilgrimage is the practice of visiting sites where religious powers are known to exist and are accessible. We will travel at the sites of the three oldest religions which originate in India, namely Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
1) Jainism (19th July)
Religions scholars believe that Jainism was propounded by Mahavira in the Ganges Basin of Eastern India, around 7th-5th C BCE. Jains believe in the permanence of the elements that constitute the universe, as well as in the existence of the soul. There are some beautiful Jain temples in Rajasthan and we will visit the Ranakpur Temple, Rajasthan renowned for its exquisite marble carvings.
2) Buddhism (26th July)
Buddhism too originated around the same time in North Eastern India, and is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha (Awakened one). The aim of Buddhism is to free oneself from the delusions of ego and achieve enlightenment or Nirvana. (not a release from suffering but a cherished ultimate goal). Sites associated with the Buddha’s life became important pilgrimage places. We will travel to the oldest stupa site, The Great Stupa at Sanchi which has been the focal point of the Buddhist faith in the region since it was built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. The awe inspiring structure is at the top of a hill, surrounded by the remains of smaller stupas, monasteries, and temples.
3) Hinduism (2nd August)
Hinduism is the major religion in India of over 80% of the population here. Hindus speak of their religion identity as Sanatana (eternal) Dharma, or rather a way of life then a religion. One of the strands that unite Hindus, is bhakti (devotion), the love of a devotee for a personal God. The major divinities of Hinduism are Vishnu, Shiva, and various forms of the Goddess, all have distinct devotional traditions. We will visit Haridwar (The Gateway of Gods), a major pilgrimage centre which is also host to Kumbh Mela the largest religious gathering. We will look at the Bathing ghats and the Ganga Aarti or worship of the Ganges river.
- Duration: 3 x 60 mins
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Meet the Host, Amee Mehta
Amee Mehta took a sabbatical from a pharmaceutical career to learn about the History of Art and never looked back. After studying the History of Indian and Islamic Art at SOAS, the fascination for learning the history of India spurred her to keep exploring. She started the History of Indian art online courses two years back during Covid and enjoys her learning while teaching. She has also done talks for an art gallery in India and has founded KindHeART, a registered art oriented charitable trust in UK.
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