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The Sacred and the Mundane

Op-Ed

The Sacred and the Mundane

McComb, Jessie F.

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It's been said of India art that it is both sacred and profane; that the beauty of form can be created on dung covered walls; that Mughal miniatures can highlight the meticulous skill of artisans while depicting a menstruating woman; and that some of the most sacred and elegant images, lingums and yonis for example, also represent what westerners consider to be rather base. It is true that India art and craft, and also Indian culture, thrust forth many dichotomies that Western writers and historians, much like myself, struggle with in our pursuit to grasp at least a notion of the great subcontinent. The notion of the sacred and profane is paralleled by yet another analogous relationship that has been recently tumbling through my mind. That is the dichotomy between the sacred and the mundane. During my travels in India I was surprised at what beauty and mediocrity could not merely coexist but be created by the very same hands. This was highlighted in a trip that I took into rural India. As part of my research last year I spent two weeks in what some call the heart of Bharat, Chhattisgarh. Although Chhattisgarh doesn't boast a thriving economy, an opulent culture or a cosmopolitan hub, in its subtle ambience one can still find the very essence of rural India. On my first day in Jagdalpur, the capital of Chhattisgarh, I took a walk along the town limits enjoying the moist beauty of the plateau on which most of the state rests. I passed through a small village, talked with the people and acquainted myself w...

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