London’s top intelligentsia gathered in Britain’s most revered address – the Palace of Westminster to celebrate one of India’s most striking secular practises – the art of prayer.
Barrister Cherie Blair who is also the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair celebrated India’s festival of lights – Diwali and released the first of its kind book on how the world’s largest democracy and the second most populous nation in the world – India.
The book Altars of Yearning – How India Prays by first time author Shripriya Dalmia Thirani that was released outside the House of Lords on October 23 followed by a Diwali lunch for London’s who’s who received rich praise from Mrs Blair and guests for being both an eye-opener to the world and also a lesson on how dozens of religions and its respective practices can coexist together in complete harmony.
Mrs Blair said “India is a country very close to my heart and the fact that it’s a secular nation is its great strength.
The young female entrepreneur Shripriya is celebrating this secularity with her book Altars of Yearning – How India Prays which I launched in the UK on October 23”.
“India is an enormous country and to document anything from across the entire nation is a mammoth task in itself. But to document the private moments of its people in prayer, as Shripriya has done, is a truly extraordinary accomplishment.
It’s a book that talks of the power of faith and of prayer and I’m delighted to be launching it in the UK, as Britain is a multi-cultural and tolerant society that embraces all faiths and people from all over the world.
So Shripriya couldn’t have chosen a more diverse country for this important event. It’s a book full of spectacular imagery and brilliant story-telling from across India which I know will be enormously successful across the world,” Mrs Blair said.
Thirani who is the owner of Mumbai’s restaurants on the sea – Queensline Neverland and Queensline Sea YAH – both of which are opening to the public mid-November this year says that the book is a first of its kind repertoire that has documented the art of prayer – from Bengal to Maharashtra, Ladakh to Bhubaneshwar, Varanasi to Chennai, Bihar to Uttar Pradesh – asserting India’s true identity as a secular country.
Lord Raj Loomba who’s charity The Loomba Foundation has since 1997 been helping widows around the world will receive proceeds from the sale of the book.
At the launch, Lord Loomba said “I have had the great privilege of living both in India and the UK. The secular values of both these countries are their core strength.
The people of India are free to pray to whichever God they follow without fear or prejudice. Britain too is similar – it is an all-embracing society where people are free to choose whether they want to pray in a church or a Mosque or a synagogue or a temple”.
“What excites me about Thirani’s first book is that it does not endorse any religion nor take sides – it endorses a deep spiritual relationship between man and God through the private institution of prayer.
This book is a true masterpiece – from its concept to the visual storytelling – everything about this book is storytelling at its best, making this book a must-have for everyone across the world,” Lord Loomba added.
Over the past year, Thirani has paid tribute to the institution of prayer by commissioning a stunning body of work that she says glorifies India’s true power – its secularity.
She along with her massive team of photographers from across India followed the secret lives of Bramhacharis in Bodh Gaya to the households of Bengal bidding goodbye to Mother Goddess Durga.
The series inside mosques will give you goosebumps while the photographs taken of prayer in daily life is indescribable beyond words.
The book will formally hit the stands from next month.