An eternal traveller, with wheels under her feet, Monidipa likes to travel frequently, and as she travels, she does what she loves doing the most: photograph the places, with the aim of documenting them for the future generations. Alongside photo documenting, she also writes about the places and monuments that she has visited mainly as blog articles on her website MoniGatha (monidipa.net). Since her main area of interest is history with a particular focus on iconography, her blog posts attempt to share the heritage structures that she sees and the history behind them, while exploring the iconography behind the various temple sculptures.
For a more formal introduction to Monidipa:
Born and brought up in Kolkata, Monidipa has stayed and worked in Kolkata, Mumbai, as well as in Delhi. A Master in Lifesciences, she did a further second Bachelor in Education, with the aim of becoming a teacher; however, fate had other plans. As she changed cities, she moved on to being a sales team leader, finally ending up as a freelance research writer. She has also worked as an educational consultant, lesson plan developer, content creator, and a content reviewer. In the near past she has worked as the Head of Publications for a Delhi based NGO (Youth for Heritage Foundation), which was working towards creating general awareness about heritage. Following her love for photography and art, she has completed a one-year diploma course in photography from the Birla Institute of Management and Futuristic Studies (Kolkata), and a three-year art and craft course from the Ramkrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan (Kolkata). Monidipa has many of travel and heritage related photographs and articles featured and published in newspapers, print magazines, and various heritage-based portals.
Her literary journey
Monidipa has two peer reviewed academic papers published in the KalaKalpa journal, which is a UGC-Care referred journal published by the IGNCA-Ministry of Culture. Currently as a columnist she writes articles on history, heritage, and political history for the Firstpost and CNNNews18. She has also written for the Rail Bandhu (in-house railway magazine for the Indian Railways), the Financial Express, The Daily Guardian, Goti Doinik (Assam-Silchar daily), Bonikabarta-Silkroute (a Bangladesh daily), e-Organiser, OpIndia, and Livehistory.
Her recently published book
Monidipa’s book titled “Himachal Temples and the Bengal connection” was published by Garuda Prakashan this year on 23rd January.
The purposes and science behind the building of a Hindu temple as given in the sastras is now mostly a forgotten chapter in the minds of a common Hindu. Why does one visit temples besides wanting to perform the regular worship, is a question that rarely occurs in one’s mind, yet, in the answer, lies the very basic essence of Hinduism: Moksha. Hindu temple visits are all aimed at union with the Supreme Consciousness, which is attaining moksha; and the sculptures that are seen on the ancient and medieval temples all help in the journey.
The first half of her book aims at trying to explain some of these forgotten ancient philosophies behind the Hindu temples, their architecture, and temple iconography. It takes a look at the meaning of a Hindu temple as per the scriptures and what is its meaning in the daily life of a Hindu, while giving a brief explanation of the Vastu Sashtra that is followed in building a Hindu temple. It also gives an insight into the basics of a Hindu temple architecture that discusses the various parts of a Hindu temple.
The second half of her book explores the wonderful blend of folk culture and Hinduism in Himachal Pradesh, and the rarely discussed connection between Himachal Pradesh and Bengal. Scattered across Kullu and Mandi Valleys are temples that bear similarities with the medieval Pala and Sena era temples seen in the Eastern state, and her book takes a closer look at that early medieval connection between Bengal and Himachal Pradesh.
The inspiration behind her book
The main inspiration behind her book was the aim to make the common people aware of the ancient meanings behind Hindu temples, the temple architectures, and the various sculptures that are seen in our temples. Having lost the regular touch with ancient texts, most of the Indic ancient knowledge on these topics remain forgotten, and people don’t know their relevance or fail to understand the various contexts associated with these topics. With her book she aimed at bringing these segments of the forgotten knowledge into the common man’s limelight, and helping Hindus to gain a basic understanding of why Hindu temples are built, the vastu behind building a temple, and the meanings behind the sculptures that are seen on ancient and medieval temples. Monidipa feels that such kinds of knowledge are our very roots, and unless we know and understand our roots very well, it will be easy to lead us astray.
Her writing on the Bengal and Himachal Pradesh connection was motivated by a priest in Baijnath temple in Kullu valley in Himachal Pradesh, when he told her about how the Pala kings from Bengal had ruled the Kullu area and how they had brought in various varnas from Bengal and settled them in that region, thus making many of the current inhabitants of the Kullu area descendants of these Bengali varnas. His discussions made her research further on the topic and learn about the migration about the Pala and Sena royal family members from Bengal to Himachal Pradesh, which she has documented in the second half of the book.
Her future plans for writing
She will soon be starting with the manuscript on her second book on another topic that has been very carefully ignored in Indian history. Besides that, her articles for the Firstpost and CNNnews18 will keep taking up various topics on history, heritage, and political history.
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