See the extensive interview with Manjari Sharma for Fabrik:
Fabrik: Can you start by telling us a bit about Darshan? How it came to be? What does the word Darshan mean and what does it mean to you?
MS: Darshan, a Sanskrit word that means vision, is most commonly used in the context of Hindu worship. A Darshan is defined as an experience purposed on helping one call out to their sense of spirituality.
Timings for a Darshan are posted at the entrance of a temple. Usually a Darshan happens at dawn and dusk and consists of a prayer ceremony accompanied by burning lamps, echoing sounds of conch shells and wafting scents of flowers and incense. A connection with that image of a deity in the form of sculpture or painting is what a devotee comes in to experience. This experience of seeking and receiving is called a Darshan. To me, a Darshan is a moment in which you are altered forever. A true Darshan will remain with you and burn a hole in your memory. To me life is really about going from one memorable Darshan to another.
Having experienced these Darshans all through my life, as a fine art photographer I set out to create a photograph of a deity. I planned on using constructed sets and costumed models photographed on large format film to create images of deities.
It was at this point that I decide to start out with one image and the success of that image made me decide to pursue my plan for a series of nine images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. I moved to the USA a decade ago and my frequent family visit to temples were fast replaced with visits to museums. The parallels between the museum and the temple were a pretty intriguing study to me. I felt that the element of anticipation, build up, let down were very similar with both institutions. Further more, keeping connected to art or spirituality requires practice, faith and devotion, a discipline that was required in the pursuit of art and Hinduism. All of this propelled me into the journey of changing contexts and defining my temple within the art gallery space.