Of homosexuality and macabre ways of cremation-New Delhi,Dec 23


BIZARRE CREMATIONS where human flesh is roasted in the burning pyre; widespread homosexuality and sleaze among Naga Sadhus interspersed with the peace and serenity of Ladakh’s Buddhist Monasteries and Hazrat Nizammudin Auliya’s Dargah.

Builder turned photographer, Madhur Dhingra has captured all these in an exhibition on ‘Where Man Meets God’ in his quest for peace from the solitude of Ladakh to the riot of colors in Hardwar and in Varanasi.

“I have always been a very spiritually inclined person and photography being my passion I started taking picture of the various holy places I used to visit,” said Dhingra.

The displays range from the macabre to the rigorously religious. For while on one side was the clam and serenity of Ladakh, on the other were photographs depicting thousands of ash smeared naked Naga Sadhus armed with trishuls, smoking ganja and openly indulging in homosexual acts.

Visiting this year’s Maha Kumbh at Hardwar, the 35-year-old photographer was very excited at the thought of seeing the Naga Sadhus descend from the Himalayas where he thought “they led an austere life in snow clad areas”.

But Dhingra said that he was in for disillusionment for austere lifestyle had changed to luxurious living in air-conditioned rooms.

Dhingra’s travels also took him to the city of lights-Varanasi. It was  the play of light and shade there against the backdrop of the ghats on the river Ganga that goaded him to freeze its serenity and calmness through his lens.

And the passage of life finally culminated at Manikarnika- the Mahashamshan, where “man meets God. It was here that Dhingra saw something that blew the daylights out of him and filled him with a desire to “expose” what he had seen.

“Poor people who cannot afford enough wood for cremation have to see the bodies of their kin being cremated in a rather bizarre manner,” he said. “The middle portion of the body is burnt leaving out the head and feet. As the fire catches on, the face and feet get partially burnt. Then the whole body is twisted like in a barbeque with a bamboo by the priest,” said Dhingra, pointing at a couple of photographs depicting charred bodies with half-burnt legs.