Living religions is all about experiencing diversity and developing an empathy for the richly layered and often discomforting histories of religions in southern Asia. We bring you an opportunity to take a trip through significant sites which symbolise something unique about the growth of its specific religion in order to perceive how interwoven religion is with the land and its people.
We begin with Varanasi – a hub for the formation of Hindu identity, which holds a mirror to the philosophy as well as the excesses of prescriptive Hinduism, something the state of the river Ganga will solemnly reveal. Dharamshala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, is another part of the trail which allows you to sink into Buddhist life and take a leaf out of the sermons of the Buddha.
Beyond Varanasi and Dharamshala, the trail leads to Delhi where the old city of Shahjahanabad provides a look into Islam’s life in the region. From the majestic Jama Masjid to the surrounding bylanes, there’s more than enough for all the senses – exquisite food, artistic textiles, spice markets and local indulgences like flying pigeons. We also add an important break in the concept behind this theme here – Sufi Islam with its universalist syncreticism leads us away from the confines of Shahjahanabad to sites like the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya which also holds the tomb of the great poet Amir Khusrau and the Dargah of Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer. The heritage of the Bhakti and Sufi movements is visible in the production of new religious philosophies around these sites.
From here, we go on to Amritsar – the site of the magnificent Harmandir Sahib that houses the Adi Granth of Sikhism. And while this makes you marvel at the intricate ways of religious life, we pick up that wondrous microcosm called Bombay to engage with the vibrant but small Parsi community – holding up the Zoroastrian way of life in western India which has produced several illustrious individuals. And from here, the trail leads southwards to Kerala which has a large majority of Syrian Christians who continue to adapt Biblical philosophy to the lives of those finding faith in it.
These roads lead to singular destinations but open up multiple questions, leaving one with almost imperfect answers but with a wealth of experience that could fill in for the time being. Take that road with us because it’s worth it.