The Shallow Crossing denotes the altered state of consciousnesse which enables 'one to cross over from worldly engagement to the side of Nirvana'. In Hindu culture, the crossing is known as a Tirtha which most often refers to pilgrimage sites connected to sacred water; hence, the definition of Tirtha as "river ford." A temple, holy mountain or residence of a sage may also be referred to as a Tirtha.
On a metaphorical level, a Tirtha represents a sacred state of mind and the divine guidance for the crossing from the earthly world to a higher state of being. It is a pathway to self-realization and bliss.
The concepts of Darshan – that is to say divine sight – and Tirtha – a shallow crossing – have galvanised environmental design thinking in the reconfiguration of the Temple grounds.
The Balaji Temple UK is the scion of a Mother temple in Trimula Southern India which happens to be the richest pilgrimage centre, and the most-visited place of worship in the world with 50,000 to 100,000 pilgrims daily and on special occasions the number shoots up to 500,00.
It is our intention to explore links and connections between Tirtha in Balaji India and Balaji UK. Within the research remit of Gardens of Consciousness, these links could explore telematic and technoetic ‘hook ups’, conjoined physical properties in the sacred landscapes as well as the anticipated spiritual and mystical connections
These ideas have also inspired a proposed show garden. With the help of digital technology, this conceptual garden will allow participants to personally ‘draw back the curtain’, and gain ‘divine’ access to that part of the garden which currently lies obscured, temptingly just beyond reach! As well as governing access to its shrouded inner sanctum, the garden is designed to highlight the question of whether such access is gained by dint of calculation or mere persistence, by good fortune or purely by the grace of god?
Linked to this design initiative, as part of a mixed media promotional campaign, we also launched ‘float a lotus’. This work was hosted by ‘Chelsea fringe’, and through the use of QR codes linked to a dedicated website, it allowed participants to interact remotely with the show garden and hopefully with good fortune (or Gods grace?) to pass beyond the veil….!
The ‘Promised Land Garden’ spoke directly of the experience and memories of one survivor of Rwandan genocide…It’s inner core was dramatized by a revolving light show that referenced alternating ‘rivers of blood’ and ‘rivers of life’….it was marked out by RHS judges and visitors alike for its ability ‘to make people feel’
This garden was an award winning conceptual garden which as you can see was more of an installation than it was a garden and yet at an RHS show it had huge popular appeal.
They queued all week and visibly moved, some cried and many just wanted to give! We ended up collecting more than £500 per day and over £2000 on the week during a show where charitable collections were expressly forbidden!
These people gave because they were made to feel! Of course one must agree that this garden is dealing with highly emotive issues, Rwandan genocide is one of the most shameful and tragic episodes in human history! But then I don’t believe that is the only lesson to be drawn from this garden. What this garden also demonstrates is that the designed environment in general is in prime position to remind us of what is truly important.
Environmental design is potentially a highly immersive medium, it is ideally placed to bring home events, feelings and value systems that so often seem remote to our daily lives, that feel detached, over there, on another continent, beyond our ken and certainly beyond our responsibility. I believe environmental design can help to unearth our real feelings, reveal our true selves and establish in the minds of all what we really hold dear In sum : ‘Places do indeed speak to us, they speak to us of what is important and given the right treatment they can influence and control and manipulate human emotion, and just as they can engender the architecture of happiness they have been seen to deliver a treatise on sadness and compassion…
The Promised Land Video
As part of a proposed interdisciplinary research project a series of comparative studies will be carried out in a laboratory to evaluate the relationship between the quality of the environment and patient compliance with treatment. All studies will involve the execution of a prescribed set of exercise whilst participant vital signs are carefully monitored.
The significant variable in this experimental setting is the presence and nature of the projected environment which shall range from a basic laboratory with no projection to projected environments which are open to patient choice and adjustment, to automated environments configured to reward the patient for compliant effort. Environments will also vary from ‘natural’ to more mechanised man made settings as well as reflect day and night and the four seasons.