The nature of women

In Gaia's Song, New Delhi-based photographer Bandeep Singh juxtaposes women and earthen pots in tantric patterns to portray women as Prakriti, or nature, and Shakti, or the cosmic force, behind all creation

For photo editor Bandeep Singh, the Indian woman decked in traditional attire has been a muse of sorts. He considers the sari to be a supremely erotic garment and sari-clad women to be more sensual than Western pin-up girls. That is why it would often trouble him to observe Indian women conforming to Occidental concepts of fashion, such as size zero, and being represented through the Western concept of photography.

The image Sa-aakaar replicates the feminine form with the aid of pots

Flower power
In his 2008 show, Antarghat -- The Vessel Within, Singh chose to portray women as Shakti (the cosmic force) and Prakriti (mother nature) by juxtaposing the form of nude women with earthen pots. His latest exhibition is titled Gaia's Song and features 32 images, several of them culled from his earlier exhibition. In the series, the women are depicted sitting atop a pot, reclining on it, meditating in front of it or forming the shape of a lotus inspired by tantric symbolism.

The image Sa-samsthita showcases the woman as the all- encompassing
feminine force

"I focused on the earthen pot as it has innumerable connotations attached to it. It is a cultural symbol and finds mention in Lord Krishna's tales, Amir Khusrao's poetry and even in sacred rituals where the Kalash (metal pot) is considered sacred. The pot is also representative of the womb and fertility. The body is also termed as a vessel and we are all made of mitti (earth), so there are several parallels between the body and the pot," explains the self-taught photographer.

The title Gaia's Song is a reference to the Greek earth-goddess Gaia as well as to the Gaia hypothesis by chemist James Lovelock. "It views the earth as a living entity where all life forms -- animate and inanimate -- are linked to each other. There is also a supreme being, or Gaia, who ensures that the equilibrium is maintained and the concept mirrors the Hindu idea of Prakriti," adds Singh. While Antarghat focused on the sensuality of the graceful postures of women, Gaia's Song is more abstract and geometrical.

Eyes of the beholder
Singh admits that he has been working on the concept over a period of 10 years. While some may perceive the images as bold or voyeuristic, Singh believes that it all lies in the gaze of the beholder. "The women depicted in the photographs are classical dancers, who were chosen due to their innate grace and sense of liberation that came from being comfortable in their own skin. They were told upfront about what was expected and they were open to the idea and that comfort level gets reflected in the images."

He also observes that erotica has always been a part of our culture. "Erotic sculptures have adorned the walls of temples from time immemorial. That is because the sacred and sensual are not considered as distinct from one another. Similarly, the nude form in Gaia's Song aims to depict a direct engagement with the un-ornamented body with nothing hiding the flaws or coming in the way of observation. At some level, the concept is beyond gender as it seeks to showcase the feminine spirit through the form of a woman," he concludes.

Till November 30, 11 am to 7 pm
At Gallery Art and Soul, 1, Madhuli, Shivsagar Estate, Worli.
Call 24965798
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