For this week’s Friday Inspired, we have Payal Wadhwa who’s been exploring the allure of portable shrines.
“It’s a fascination that began almost a decade ago, when I was living in Italy and surrounded by some rather devout families in my neighbourhood. A small village of Roman Catholics, I was often invited to dinners and coffees and proudly introduced to their mantelpiece shrines.
I’ve been enamoured since.
In my agnostic blur of existence, I’ve stumbled across portable shrines in the following years that have drawn me in, to the stories and scripts within these palm sized dioramas that admittedly are magnificent and almost universal in their structure, ideas and usage.
I recently attended an Indian oral storytelling seminar that re-introduced me to the world of the Kaavad, portable shrines that are now slowly evolving as a medium for communicating more stories than those religious.
Tales of morality with contemporary characters are slowly taking over the mantel gods and goddesses, once occupied to appeal to children and younger people that keepers of these shrines entertained. With tales from the Panchatantra and the Arabian Nights making it to the surfaces once sacred and guarded, what happens to these objects as humanity evolves, religions dissolve or become stauncher, and morality and faith become increasingly questionable shall be an interesting narrative to follow.
Here are some images of the most fascinating shrines I’ve seen in person or trawled the internet for. The fascination to find new ones continues, as I was recently presented with a part of the Dalai Lama’s temporary shrine. It makes for a thing of absolute enchantment, and well, a less sceptic of me.”
Portable Buddhist Shrine from Tibet, 19th Century AD
Portable Buddhist Shrine with Two Removable Standing Bodhisattvas, a Lotus Base for a Seated Buddha Image (now missing), a Repoussé Panel Depicting the Buddha Amitabha (Amit’abul), and Repoussé Panels on the Doors Representing Guardian Figures, 14th Century
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum
Recitations from a 50 year old Kaavad
Courtesy Payal Wadhwa, Image & Word: Workshop on Storytelling, New Delhi April 2013
Payal Wadhwa runs a multidisciplinary studio in London called Inspire Conspire Retire. The studio designs for museums, exhibitions, books, cafes, hotels, events, film and stage. They also build strong brands and tell meaningful stories for those they work with. Payal moonlights as a performance maker.