Surasundaris on the walls of Rani-ki- Vav
remind us that sensuality is the doorway to
spirituality, that growth and fertility are as
important as piety and devotion, that even
before we undertake dhyana of the deity in
the sanctum or in different parts of the vav
we must saturate our mind with the
beautiful so that we can attain the state of
serenity and purnatva.
Sensually evocative, beautiful from tresses
to the toes, with eyes downcast, surasundaris
are an expression of unsurpassed grace.
They are a reminder that a woman is the
most adorned expression "prakriti, that to
indulge in it is to affirm our senses and
enrich our mind, but the aesthetic journey
does not stop there. The contemplative
viewer will see the surasundari as a poem
and a song, where every limb and every
gesture are the lyrics, the texture of the
stone is the rhythm, where metaphor is the
key that will unlock the many, meanings
The stepwell in Patan is perhaps the most
admired structure of its kind and is a
testament to the imagination and skill of the
sthapati and as we walk through its many-
tiered pavilion we almost hear the hushed
voices of the queen and her retinue that
stayed there away from menacing eyes and
sweltering heal Come, tread softly, as you
are entering a hallowed space of beauty.
If you see a photographer wandering through fairs and festivals, temples and mausoleums, not
only taking photographs but becoming one with the world of mankind and monuments, it must
be Vinod Contractor. Having lived in the United States of America for many years Vinod has
returned to Gujarat, which is where his heart is, in its people and places, its voices and footfalls,
its colours and moods. When Vinod looks through his lens he does not just see objects, but he
is touched by the sap that flows through them, the emotions that define them and the spirit that
enlivens them. His photographs are not just pictures but a visual and living document. Through
his camera he captures forgotten stories, half-remembered conversations, the hammer and chisel
of the shilpakara, the whisper of the surasundaris. This is what makes his photographs alive
not just with colour but with feeling, not just with precision but with a third dimension. It is not
uncommon for Vinod to spend hours finding the right view or the correct shade of light, the
perfect glance or the most evocative pose before he clicks his camera. For him his camera is not
just an instrument to create photographs but a means to record for posterity his feelings and his
love for India. Vinod is married to Jayshree and they make their home in Valsad, Gujarat.
Harsha V. Dehejia is Adjunct professor in the College of the Humanities of Carleton University in Ottawa, ON, canada, He has several books, films and curated exhibitions to his credit.
Kirit Mankodiis MA, PhD, from Pune University. He is associated with the Cultural Divisionof Franco-Indian Pharmaceuticals. he wasresponsible for the defining work on Rani-kiVav. Currently he is engaged in repatriating illegally removed art object from India.
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