Saturday, December 25, 2004

Delhi's Christmas Connections...

was reading a piece by RV Smith, in The Hindu, on Delhi's long Christmas connection, predating the building of Shahjahanabad, popularly known as Old Delhi. (and Shajhanabad, the youngest settlement of 'Old' Delhi, dates back to 1638...)

"Alfred J. Edwin observed 35 years ago that the popular image of Christmas "which built up over the past 200 to 300 years overshadowed the true significance of the occasion. This was primarily in the overall context: the image of Burra Din of the Burra Sahib from abroad described Christmas Day... it was the bacchanalian image which stood out... Evidently it was overlooked that Christianity came to India much before the representatives of the West set foot on Indian soil... going back to the time of the Apostle St. Thomas" in the first century A.D."

the baccchanalia I can definitely identify with. yesterday was one wild, and wonderful party.
but earlier in the evening, when we'd gone to buy christmas decorations, in crowded, messy (and much more 'cosmopolitan' than the magazine of that name could ever imagine...) Bhogal Market.
standing next to us buying stars and little christmas trees was a couple,man and wife. shivering in the unfamiliar cold, thinly dressed tribals from orissa, doing low paying manual, menial work here in delhi to get by... for them christmas was surely more than another excuse to party...

there are a million different christmases in delhi alone...

"In the Annunciation scene, when the Archangel Gabriel greets Mary - he is shown carrying a lotus flower as a symbol of peace and purity... In the Adoration scene Mary is shown seated with the Babe under a peepul tree... draped in yellow and brown instead of the traditional blue". There is even a statue of the Virgin (always depicted barefoot) wearing a sari and shoes. Thomas died years ago in Chelsea (England), where he had set up his studio. His brother, the noted shikari, Cyril Thomas, died in 1992. Alfred's famous picture of the Adoration decorated St. James's Church, Kashmere Gate for many years.

for more RV Smith, click here...

i sign off with observations from fatehpur sikri, three years ago -

On the Buland Darwaza, the grandest gate of one of the grandest mosques in the Empire, Akbar had inscribed in Persian, "Jesus, son of Mary, on whom be peace, said, 'The world is a bridge, pass over it, but build no house upon it.'

Why has all this been forgotten?
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