Rasa Yatra

Rasa Yatra is a collection of devotional photographs by Param Tomanec. As a devotional photographer, Tomanec avoids the portrayal of divinity ias an amorphous energy or abstraction of color. His decisions would have been different had that been his intention. Instead, he shows us divinity as personal, play- ful, and beautiful. Deities are presented as they are in temples, honored with the integrity of their individuality and unique person hood. He shows us sadhus and pilgrims warm with human emotion, eyes wide open, acknowledging us, seeing us as much as we see them. The bhakti view that “nothing differs from God” acknowledges God’s presence in all things and within all life, without need of subsuming that life into His own being.

We as observers have an assignment when viewing such works. How well we can perceive divinity in these photographs depends on our how seriously we are committed to our spiritual practice. Neophytes appreciate phe- nomena on a literal level: “Here is a photo- graph of a tree.” More advanced meditators appreciate an object’s deeper symbolic mean- ing: “Here is a photograph of a tree and in this tree-body lives an eternal soul,” or “This tree is a hair on the body of God’s Universal Form.” Advanced practitioners see their Be- loved before them — Krishna, Govinda, Gopal are names often associated with personal divin- ity in India. For them, the response to inspired photography such as Tomanec’s becomes “Here is not a photograph, but my beloved Krishna in His deity form, in His incarnation as mother Ganges, and in His loving devotees.”

On that rasik plane of pure perception, everything becomes a stimulus for love of God, whether is it en pleine air, on a canvas, or in a photograph. As you contemplate this ex- hibit,take time to breathe before each image. Meditate on each one, not as an object separate and apart from yourself but as a part of you, as an evocation of a vision you once had, but which has been subsumed beneath the tempo- rary ephemera of material life. Let the image’s deeper dimensions penetrate your heart, and watch what happens.

In 2009, Param Tomanec was appointed Artist-in-Residence at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, a Recognized Independent Centre of the University of Oxford, through which he publishes his academic collaborations. Param’s still photography and moving pictures are used at universities around the world for courses on Indian life, culture and art. Works of his are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Sacred Art and a growing number of private collections. Param’s creativity is largely inspired by Eastern philosophy and influenced by artists like Andrei Tarkovsky, Godfrey Reggio and Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Over the next five years Param Tomanec will be making his next feature film along with writing, travelling and exhibiting his works.