Evening Blossoms describes the transformation of a folk tradition. Sanjhi was originally a ritual worship undertaken by unmarried girls throughout northern India to obtain a suitable husband. It became a temple tradition in the 17th century when the devotional bhakti movement linked it to games played by Radha and Krsna as children in Vraja, the cowherd camp where God was pleased to reside as Sri-Krsna in the previous era. The devotional verses of the next two centuries describe these games and evoke Sanjhi as a ritual design made with forest flowers in the autumn, after the rains. Thus, Radha, Krsna's ahladini sakti or joy-giving potency, who is also Praktti, nature, is engaged in her own beautification, as an advanced Babaji of Vrndavana has expressed it.
In the late 19th century Sanjhi became a temple art. Initially made on a cowdung background on house walls by unmarried girls, it was now made on a vedi (platform) within the temple by the priests. This type of Sanjhi, perhaps borrowed from the ancient art of dhuli citra, is prepared using coloured powders, originally ground from natural substances, which are applied using stencils. Thus, the forest flowers are replaced by betas, intricate, intertwining flowering vines that frame the hauda or central medallion of the design.
The worship of Sanjhi continues in north Indian villages, while the- - temple tradition has become confined mainly to three important temples at Vrndavana and a single temple at Barsana, Radha's village.
Born in New York City as Allan A. Shairo, he initially came to India in 1969. In 1971, having been sent to Vrndavana by Swami Mukunda Hariji, he received initiation from H.H. Tridani Swami B.H. Bon Maharaj, founder of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, Vrndavana. He remained in India until 1975 under the guidance of Baba Shripada ji Maharaj. He then completed an undergraduate degree at the City College of New York.
In 1980 he returned to India and began his association with Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana, Vrndavana. After four and a half years of research, including editing and translation of Salagramapariksa, an unpublished late 17th century Sanskrit manuscript concerning the galagrama stone (self-manifest object worshipped by Hindus), he continued research and writing in Nepal, where galagramas are found, for another year and a half. He returned to India in 1987 after being awarded a Ph.D. degree in Indic Studies by Columbia University in the City of New York.
He continues to be connected with Sri Caitanya Prema Samsthana, taking part in the Vraja-Nathadvara Prakalpa, a project undertaken in conjunction with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. Evening Blossoms is the first tangible fruit of this association.
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