Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Leonid Plotkin | The Eternal Return

Photo © Leonid Plotkin - All Rights Reserved
Here is The Eternal Return, an interesting feature on the Assamese neo-Vaishnavite culture, initiated around 15th century by the Assamese saint Srimanta Sankardeva and his disciple Madhavdeva. Vaishnavism is one of the major branches of Hinduism along with Shaivism, Smartism and Shaktism. It is focused on the veneration of Vishnu.

Many satras (monasteries) built by the saint still survive, and shelter Vaishnavite monks whose lives are dedicated to the complete devotion to Vishnu. Similar to many monastic traditions, young boys arrive at a satra between the ages of five and ten, and remain novices until they reach the age of majority. At that time, if they wish to continue living in the monastery, they receive full ordination as monks. Many of the larger monasteries house hundreds of celibate and non-celibate bhakats (monks), hold vast lands and are repositories of religious and cultural relics and artifacts.

Vaishnavism is rich in saints, temples and scriptures. The adherents of the sect are generally monastic and devoted to meditative practice and ecstatic chanting.

Leonid Plotkin traveled to Majuli Island on the Brahmaputra River in the Indian state of Assam, and photographed in one of these satras

He has been featured a few times on my blog, and although he photographed the Urs of Nawaz Gharib in Ajmer while I was there in 2013, we don't seem to have run into each other. He has been virtually everywhere in India as his blog attests.

Leonid is a freelance documentary photographer and writer. His work has appeared in publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The Economist, Penthouse Magazine, Student Traveler, Budget Travel, Discovery Magazine, and others.