The Road to Sanchi
Obsolete rickshaw meters dating from the 1950s to the 1970s, transformed via video screens into the beholding eye of a rickshaw rider, become an oculus for our metaphysical existence and for observing the oscillating continuum of present-day India.
Rickshaw rides to sacred sites for Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists throughout India become a vehicle for examining the prism of time and the significance of the pilgrimage—as well as a metaphor for India’s history of cultural plurality.
The videos, which survey the vibrant roadside vernacular that has existed in India for centuries, record the convergence of pedestrians, markets and animals with motor scooters and telephone wires—interventions of the modern world. Displayed on steel pedestals under glass domes, the sculptures echo these blurred, intersecting notions of time by juxtaposing the contemporary form of a time capsule with the ancient silhouette of the stupa.
Entitled, The Road to Sanchi, the series of twelve sculptures plays loops of rickshaw rides to four pilgrimage sites which embody India’s historical embrace of intercultural coexistence: Sanchi (where the remains of the Buddha were buried), Varansi (where the Hindu ritual of aarti is conducted on the shore of the Ganges), Nizamuddin (the Sufi Shrine in Delhi) and Mattancherry (home of India’s oldest functioning synagogue).
Though Sanchi (and the other destinations) is an unseen destination in the video, its name imbues a sense of elevated purpose to the rickshaw ride, transforming it into a meditation on the wonder that exists within any journey, the fluidity of time and the universal threads that unite cultures. Photos by David de Armas