In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Religion in India
  • Maany Peyvan (bio)

Any photo essay that intends to depict India’s religious diversity will be hopelessly incomplete. Missing among the photos here are many majestic sites of worship: Zororastrian fire temples with centuries-old flames; the stunning Bahá’í Lotus Temple in Delhi, concrete and marble arced into petals; the blinding gold walls of the Sikh temple of Darbar Sahib. India’s various religious shrines, temples, and mosques are far too numerous to catalogue.

And oftentimes, confronted with the infinitely large scale of so many structures, it is easy forget that India’s religion exists at an infinitely small scale as well—in the bare footsteps of millions of pilgrims, the bowed heads of masses united in prayer, and the flapping of countless prayer flags in the Himalayan wind. This essay attempts to showcase India’s faith at both of those dimensions, offering small glimpses of the country’s rituals, its devotion, and its beauty. [End Page 159]

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Prayer markers spread across the rugs of the Jama Masjid in Old Dehli. Over 154 million Muslims live in India, making it home to the world’s third-largest Muslim population.

[End Page 160]

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Pigeons rest on the exterior of the Jama Masjid. The mosque was built in 1656.

[End Page 161]

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A wall near the Qutb Minar in Dehli. The Qutb complex is built from stones from demolished Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist temples, creating variegated patterns.

[End Page 162]

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A procession celebrating Shah Jahan’s birthday marches a miles-long ribbon through the Taj Mahal in Agra. The Taj was built in memory of Shah Jahan’s wife, Mumtaz. Both are entombed in a chamber below the Taj.

[End Page 163]

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Buddhist prayer flags flap in the wind in Ladakh. The wind is believed to carry the flag’s blessings to all beings.

[End Page 164]

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Hindus bathe in the Ganges river in Varanasi, one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in India. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges purifies them of sin. Dying in Varanasi is said to release one’s soul from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

[End Page 165]

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Hundreds of bells hover over a Hindu shrine near Varanasi. Ringing bells invoke the Gods, creating the auspicious sound Aum, a sacred sound in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism.

[End Page 166]

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Missionaries of Charity pray at the tomb of Mother Teresa in Kolkata. Christianity has nearly 24 million followers in India, making it the country’s third largest religion.

[End Page 167]

Maany Peyvan

Maany Peyvan is a MA candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.



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pp. 159-167
Launched on MUSE
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