Monday, October 18

French philosopher’s homage to Durga, the ‘sacred feminine’

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This French philosopher has been living the life of a recluse for the past year and a half to follow her passion for a phenomenon called “Durga”, the sacred feminine. She has recorded the trail through text and pictures and while it is still some time before her dossier on Durga is published, the photographs she has taken of the making of the idol and beyond, will be showcased by the ministry of culture at an exhibition at Indian Museum from Friday, marking the start of the festival.

Mireille Josephine Guezennec is a celebrated philosopher in France and a faculty at Orleans-Tours University. Though she trained in classical western philosophy and has taught it all her life alongside Greek and German schools, the tangentially opposite approach of Indian philosophy attracted her. So she trained in yoga, studied Vedic philosophy and Upanishads at Sorbonne University and started spending time in India. She has been visiting India for the past 35 years, the results of which are her books on the Ganga and Varanasi, which have been published in French and English. They are studied as reference texts, especially because the Unesco considers Mireille to be a foreign expert on Indian philosophy and has cobranded her publications. Since her books are accompanied with photographs, she was given the award for the best foreign photographer for India by the ministry of tourism in 2000.

During her long stays in Varanasi, Mireille experienced Durga Puja and it took her breath away. “Right from the time the clay is scooped out of the depths of the Ganga to the time when the goddess is immersed, it is the journey of a lifetime… and beyond, leading one to a spiritual communion and an inexplicable finality that for me is the essence of Indian philosophy,” Mireille said. She explains the essential difference between Western and Indian philosophy was that while the former was an approach of rationalists, the latter encompassed intellectual with emotional, while seeking the truth and where aesthetics form a part of that quest.

She found her quest as a philosopher would remain incomplete, if she didn’t research Durga and approached ICCR. For the past one-and-a-half years, she has been staying at Dhakuria, spending most of her time in Kumartuli. “Durga should be studied in her entirety. Her form, the reason behind her creation and existence, her relationship with nature and the cosmos has a larger philosophy that I am trying to explore…”Mireille said.

She has photographed her explorations in Kumartuli that will be exhibited from Friday.

Source: Times of India

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