India's Faiths in New Frames

Dinesh Khanna talks about his photographic journey through India, published in his book 'Living Faith.'


Living Faith Photo Gallery
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A decade ago, photographer Dinesh Khanna set out to record his fellow Indians' everyday lives and the country's kaleidescopic culture. Two collections have come out of his journey: "Bazaar" (2001) and his new book, "Living Faith: Windows into the Sacred Life of India." As religious strife has disrupted India's politics, Khanna was increasingly driven to tell a different story, of India's extraordinarily peaceful religious diversity. Vibhuti Patel interviewed Khanna about his book and his nation.

How did you come to photography and this book?

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My father was a photographer. I learned the basics from him. By 20, I had drifted into advertising. After 10 years, I quit. [Advertising is] a collaborative effort, and I had a personal vision I wanted to communicate. That's how this journey started. Working in advertising, which is aimed at the middle-class, I realized there's a whole country I wasn't familiar with. I wanted to find that other India. I was curious about our masses, from whom I felt divorced.

Why did you make faith your subject?

The practice of faith is so out there, so unabashed. People come for religious reasons to a temple or mosque, and a bazaar springs up. Commerce and faith are interlinked. India's political leadership has borrowed alien frames--socialism and secularism--and superimposed them on our economy and on our faith. Secularism in the minds of Indian intellectuals became non-religion, even anti-religion.

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