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desideewar des se WITH STEPHEN P. HUYLER

Cultural Anthropologist and art historian Stephen Huyler has published six non-fiction books based upon his 44 years of travel and field research in India. A Question of Hue is the first book of the series. After 40 years of writing books based upon his extensive travel in India, Stephen P. Huyler recently launched a new and compelling series, "The Masala Mysteries", co-authored with his wife, Helene Huyler.

As one of the western world’s leading experts on India, Stephen Huyler’s fiction abounds with rich detail and cultural understanding that could only be penned after a lifetime of exploring the Indian subcontinent.

Stephen Huyler hasn’t just traveled throughout India: he has studied and documented its religion, art, and cultural mores for more than 40 years. He has written six non-fiction books about India and is widely regarded as one of the leading documentary photographers of the country. He also has served as a guest curator for more than twenty-five museum exhibitions of Indian art around the world. 

Here we bring to you some of the pictures that he shared with us, along with his insights.

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All In Stephen P. Huyler's words  ... 

"I was just twenty, in India for the first time, staying as a guest in a home in a south Indian city. I am a light sleeper and the noises of householders moving woke me long before dawn. I climbed to my feet, splashed some water on my face from the jug next to my cot, quickly changed into fresh clothes, and staggered out of my room to see what was going on. The noises were coming from just outside the house's entrance. There in the dim dusk, the mother of the family was sprinkling water from a brass pot in her hand onto the dirt road directly in front of the door. Trading the pot for a small metal bowl, she bent straight from the waist and began to mark out a grid of dots on the damp earth with pinches of white powder. Then she began to connect the dots with sinuous, fluid lines and, as I watched, stems and leaves, flower petals and birds began to cover the ground. Finally she took several other bowls containing colored powders and quickly filled in the designs with color: purple, pink, bright red and two shades of green, transforming her entire painting into an explosion of color. I was entranced. What did this mean? Why was she doing this? As the predawn light began to open my view down the street, I saw that women, young and old, were in front of every house, all painting designs. As I walked down the street, I saw that each painting was different in form, in size, and in palette. The entire dirt street was transformed into a huge mural. As each woman finished her painting, she would walk along the road to observe the other's women's handiwork before re-entering her home to care for her family's needs. Then, as the sun rose, and the day's activities began, entire families began coming out of their houses: men on their way to work, children walking to school, women going to the market and all stepping directly across these beautiful powder paintings and scuffing them into the dust. Within a short while they had all disappeared. I was amazed.
When I returned to the house in which I was staying and questioned the family members about the meaning of this extraordinary process, I was told that new paintings were created every day in every home. They are sacred designs intended to protect the home from evil and to encourage benevolent spirits to enter it. What a phenomenal culture! This discovery engendered in me an obsession to see more. I traveled throughout this state of Tamil Nadu, arising early each morning to witness the creation of these 'kolams'. I learned that they are freshly made daily in more than a million homes and that the women pride themselves in never repeating a design! How could that be possible? I was transfixed. 
In that year when I was just twenty, I gathered material on the subject which I wrote as a research paper for my undergraduate university. Years later I returned to Tamil Nadu to document it further and to photograph the making of kolams for my second book: Painted Prayers: Women's Art in Village India (NY: Rizzoli, 1994). Later I featured kolam-making in a chapter of my book: Daughters of India; Art and Identity (NY: Abbeville and Ahmedabad: Mapin, 2008). I now have more than a thousand photographs of these ephemeral designs, far more than I can ever use; and yet I am still bewitched by their ingenuity. Whenever I again find myself arising in the pre-dawn Tamil light, I always walk along the streets to discover new designs and record again on film this remarkable example of human creativity. I will return there this February and can hardly wait…"










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The stunning colors, henna and traditional jewelry are more reasons that make Indian events intriguing and interesting, even for those who grew up watching these and even more so for those who return to soak it all, drawn by nostalgia. 

Song and dance are of course an integral part of any and every celebrations in India. This extravagantly organized Parojan ceremony that Kanan attended in Madhya Pradesh state of India in her marawari family was no exception. All the religious ceremonies during the day culminated in an all-out evening bash.  The women danced on folk songs as well as the latest Bollywood film based songs. The colorful saris and the latest-in-the-fashion-world lehengas were testimony to the richness of Indian traditional garbs. 

Food in India tops the list of must-do things in India during our visits there. The must-eat items include the top restaurants and chains in the big cities, but the amazing finger-licking home-cooked meals everywhere in India. The organically grown vegetables, the fresh spices- all have a different flavor that are treat to our pallets. What better way to enjoy the delicacies than attend a traditional ceremony? "I couldn't believe how lucky I was to have the privilege of enjoying traditional marwari food like- Dal Bhati, Gatte Ke Sabzi



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