Chakras: The Deep Soul of India

 A project that took 4 years

During the research for the Transformation series it was inevitable that I would encounter the chakras and the body’s invisible energy system. I bought an original copy of Ajit Mookerjee’s beautiful book, Kundalini, The Arousal of the Inner Energy, that was packed full of fascinating old Indian esoteric illustrations. It opened my mind to the idea of creating a modern, more photographic interpretation of the chakras and their beautiful cosmology of lotus petals, colours and symbols. I had no idea it would be many years before I could find a way to do them justice.

I researched potential itineraries that would take me on some carefully timed short excursions as I didn’t have the luxury of doing extended trips with all my commitments at home. The images are based on the elemental qualities of each chakra so I planned to go to deserts, mountains, rivers and iconic Indian landmarks. For the base or root chakra image, for example, I was looking for the rich reds, ochres, terracottas, rock textures, trees with exposed roots, wall patina and even ploughed fields to create the composited background image.

Once I had enough material from India and all the lotus petal images I needed for the chakra symbol overlays, I started working in Photoshop on the compositing. I did have a clear idea of where I was going but it wasn’t until I had played around a bit that the final feel of the images started to emerge. Apart from the elemental ingredients, the colours of each chakra had a large part to play in the overall look.

Browse the set of images below and then go to the Gallery or Shop tab if you would like to buy an image. They are available as custom made limited edition prints with various options on framing and printing, a set of posters and an ebook (named Chakras, the Deep Soul of India) that is an account of the inner and outer journeys I undertook for the creation of the work that has drawn on the the extensive experience I have in photography, digital imaging, yoga and contemporary spirituality.

This is also necessary for the upcoming exhibitions and live shows that will be what I consider to be a pioneering attempt to marry a visual, philosophical and life transforming experience. The date and venue of the first show will be posted on the news page.

Mulhadara, Root Chakra

Mulhadhara Chakra

The final Muladhara chakra image is a complex overlay of several earth element images. I had a few challenges to get the Varanasi sadhu to stand out from the tree landscape image at the base of the picture, so I ended up having to cut him out and put him back exactly where he was positioned next to the tree roots. That way I could blend the trees into his terracotta wall coloured background whilst allowing him to stand out in the foreground.

With some experimentation and a combination of overlay and masking, the large tree appears to be coming from behind the right hand side of the arch whilst the rest of it merges through it. That way the textures all merge and blend in interesting ways to create an intriguing adventure for the eye. I have disguised the elephant that is a big part of the visual metaphor of this chakra.

I had originally played with various Ganesh images and the elephant carving from Mahabalipuram for this chakra, but they weren’t as subtle. Despite the chakra overlay obscuring the lovely roots detail, I had to make it big enough to get the right impact.

Svadisthana, Sacral Chakra

Svadisthana Chakra

The Svadisthana chakra image was the most tricky of all to create, but I stuck steadfast with the Orchha image as the background throughout the process. I had the Jaipur City Palace doorway lotus arch framing up the top of the image and emerging through the river cataract at the base.

The challenge was to keep a careful balance of all the complex components and set the right size of the waterfall and old chhatris so they didn’t look out of place. Because the central six petalled lotus has the sun face of the background at its centre, I had to carefully place the other symbolic components around it. I ended up highlighting the sun by cutting him out onto his own layer and adding some basic outer glow. His face was quite dirty in the original so he also needed a bit of a retouching makeover.

Adding the archetypal crocodile (shot at a crocodile farm in India) and fish were part of emphasising the water element, whilst a real moon placed on top of the detail at the apex of the arch provided the final touch.

Manipura, Solar Plexus Chakra

Manipura Chakra

The third, or Manipura chakra had to be full of fire power, fire being the upwardly moving transformative energy. Otherwise called the solar plexus chakra (a plexus is a network of nerves or other vessels in the body), it is the centre of empowerment and self esteem.

Manipura actually means the “City of the Sun” as solar energy is received through this chakra. The red trikona symbol sits in the centre with its three T-shaped Hindu swastikas (symbolising Surya, the sun). The ram’s head (the ram is the vehicle of Agni, the god of fire) emerges from the flames above the chakra to emphasise this feeling of power.

Adding a red sunset sky overlay and my usual wall texture created an inferno feel for the background on which to put the yellow lotus, trikona and bija mantra symbol. Then by extracting and blending some fire burnoff images from a cane field near Tiruvannamalai I was able to add a fiery heart to the middle of the image from which light and heat could radiate. The enlarged sunrise and almost silhouette image of the Jaswant Thada provided some old Indian architectural feeling to the image.

Anahata, Heart Chakra

Anahata Chakra

Anahata is the Sanskrit word for the heart chakra which means “unstruck”, a place of non violence. It is the pivotal chakra, with three above it and three below in the generally known system of seven chakras. Although I started on the Svadisthana chakra first, it was the process of working on this image that the main visual breakthroughs came for the series.

Air is one of the easier elements to represent metaphorically, and given that I already had clouds and feathers in mind as major background elements, it didn’t take long for the image to take shape. The feathers penetrating the clouds were a good way to enhance the feeling of soft radiating energy from the heart. I also allowed the layerings of feathers to be revealed through the middle of the chakra lotus to add more airy lightness.

When the heart chakra awakens there is an extraordinary feeling of tender openness. The love then literally pours out, touching and transforming everything in its vicinity. This opening is powerful indicator of awakening and is an essential precursor to enlightenment. The rising kundalini pierces and opens this lotus on its journey upwards to the three spiritual centres.

Vishuddha, Throat Chakra

Vishuddha Chakra

Firstly, I had to stage and control the production of the image of the dancer, Devaki, in Sydney as I had neither the resources or time to do it in India. It required control of the lighting and the shooting of it on my medium format camera in the studio because of the extreme enlargement needed. The pixels are cleaner with medium format sensors and I wanted the power of her deep dark and soulful eyes to dominate the image.

I gave her a backlight rim on the right side of her face and hand to enhance the feeling of the beginning of transcendence, with the light from the snow covered mountain peak in the background representing the higher chakras and the radiance of pending enlightenment.

The hill outline going through the middle of her face represents the veil of illusion, or maya, that we all live behind until we realise our true nature.

Ajna, Third Eye Chakra

Ajna Chakra

The Ajna or third eye chakra image came together almost miraculously and was part of the creative flow that I started to find once the feeling and structure of the images had been decided.

I diverged from the original plan of having just a sadhu’s face occupying the whole frame (to allow enough space for the dual petal lotus overlay on his brow), because when I imported the Varanasi sadhu into the composition, I needed to reduce his size to include his magnificent long flowing beard. By overlaying the majenta toned chhatris image I was able to get a double flow in the image.

The river flows through his torso and the beard flows from his face, all enhancing the feeling of transcendence necessary for this higher chakra. I added the pigeons and water temple in Bundi (upper left) to add to the upwards movement.  When the painted wall underlay texture and the majenta sky from the Orchha image were mixed together it created a feeling evocative of the spiritual dimension (upper right image area). Even more extraordinary is the way that the red and yellow lights from the chhatris match the colours of his printed shawl.

Sahasrara, Crown Chakra

Sahasrara Chakra

The beautifully named Sahasrara, or crown chakra, also went through a prototype stage as I determined the look and arrangement of the concentric circles of petals. Changing the actual lotus petal used significantly shifted the whole feel of the thousand petal flower. I eventually settled with one with a rose tipped point to accentuate each petal as they become smaller towards the OM symbol in the middle of the chakra.

Once I had established the 50 different diameter rounds of 20 petals, I regrouped them to literally pulse the energy coming from the centre to enhance the sheer power and shakti radiating from the chakra. The viewer can then get a dynamic visual experience whilst feeling its subtle energy transmission.

The prototypes were kept in the original colour of the petal, but on close scrutiny of the historical references I added pastel colours to the layers. The Mount Arunachala sunset shot was used for the base of the image with the Taj glowing with efferescent light placed in the bottom left hand corner. A background of the Jaipur City Palace arch and soaring birds were used for some more emphasis. This image looks best when enlarged to its full size (1.2m x 1.2m and available as a limited edition) to feel the full impact of the golden central radiant OM symbol.

Shri Yantra or Chakra

Shri Yantra

In addition to the seven commonly known chakras, I have included the Shri Yantra (also known as the Shri Chakra) with the chakra images. Considerable research was done on this yantra and how to draw it in preparation for its digital creation, and I discovered that it has far more importance and depth of meaning than I had originally realised. Dating back to a 7th century inscription found in Indonesia, but more probably originating from India, it is conceived as a place of spiritual pilgrimage. It represents the cosmos at the macrocosmic level and the human body at the microcosmic level. More importantly here, each of its “circuits” corresponds to a chakra on the body.

It is constructed with 9 interlocking triangles, surrounded by 2 circles of lotus petals, (representing centrifugal and centripetal forces). All that is then encased in a gated frame grandly called the “earth citadel”.  The 9 triangles centred around the central bindu point (the dot in the middle of the yantra) are drawn by the superimposition of 5 downward pointing triangles (as Shakti, the female principle), and 4 upright triangles, (as Shiva, the male principle). 43 triangles are formed from this interlocking lattice, each housing a presiding deity associated with particular aspects of existence.

Fascinatingly, the spiritual journey from material existence to ultimate enlightenment is mapped on the Shri Yantra. The journey is a pilgrimage, because every step is an ascent to the centre and is movement beyond one’s limited existence, with every level bringing the transcendence closer. It is mapped in stages, each stage corresponding to a particular circuit that takes you from the outer plane to the bindu centre. So the yantra gives us a vision of the totality of existence, with adepts internalising its symbols for the ultimate realisation of their unity with the cosmos.

The goal then of contemplating the Shri Yantra is for the seeker to rediscover their primordial source, whilst the circuits indicate the successive phases in the process of becoming.

Grace

Grace

Originally created to show all the individual chakras and their positions on the body, I opted to keep the ethereal feel of this image and change its emphasis to be an invitation to enter the inner world.

The problem was that once I had added all the white light, the coloured chakra overlays looked a bit crude so I felt it better to make the image about the “veil of illusion” between the physical and non physical realms and just include the two upper chakras more subtly represented as light to keep the image relevant to the series.

I ended up with a simple composite of the wide Badrinath mountainscape and the Ganges riverbank scene with its little figures representing the spiritual and physical planes respectively. Then by adding the cracking arch from Amber fort as an overlay I was able to show the physical as a temporary illusion.

The divine goddess then appears to be coming through the doorway with her arms wide open to welcome us to go beyond this illusion. It is only through transcendence that we can experience the eternal bliss of who we really are. I love the way that this image eventually came together, such as the alignment of the mountain ridge line with the “V” of model Corina’s white top, and her skin tone with the background colour.

The Flower of Life

The Flower of Life

The Flower of Life is a geometrical shape composed of multiple evenly-spaced, overlapping circles arranged in a flower like pattern with six fold, hexagon like symmetry. The perfect form has been known to philosophers, architects and artists around the world for centuries and has been found in many different cultures and places listed here:

Israel – synagogues in Galilee and Mesada.

Japan – various temples.

India – Golden Temple, Hampi, and in Ajanta.

Turkey – City of Ephesus, in Izmar

Italy – Italian art from the 13th century

Spain – Cordoba, in ‘la Mezquita’

Egypt -the temple of Osiris at Abydos

The temple of Osiris at Abydos, Egypt contains the oldest known examples of the Flower of Life. They are at least 6,000 years old and may even date back to as long ago as 10,500 B.C. or earlier.  Drawn with incredible precision (with advanced technology) they are part of the mystery of our ancient civilisations. The recent opening of an exhibit of large extraordinarily accurately made stone boxes discovered in Egypt also suggests the use of “higher” technologies. More recently, the Flower of Life has provided what is considered to be deep spiritual meaning to those who have studied its sacred geometry. There are groups of people all over the world who derive particular beliefs and forms of meditation based on this beautiful symbol of life.

OM

OM

I felt that the universal, but much misunderstood symbol of the source of all manifestation, OM, deserved its own image in the show. I had wanted to experiment with using multiple magnified concentric images of it to give a feeling of the sound vibration that it represents.

As with the Shri Yantra, I researched the meaning and myths around the symbol to try to establish some commonly agreed facts. I discovered that it really is a whole universe in itself and each part of the symbol has significant meaning.

The answers as to what the symbol means are in the ancient yoga text known as the Mandukya Upanishad.  Written in 800-500 BC, this text explains both the concepts behind the sound and the symbol as follows:

“The syllable OM, which is the imperishable Brahman, is the universe. Whatsoever has existed, whatsoever exists, and whatsoever shall exist hereafter, is OM.  And whatsoever transcends past, present, and future, that also is OM.”

It represents all aspects of human consciousness.

Deeksha

Deeksha

I created this image as a powerful reminder of the role that we can all play in the current massive shift in consciousness on the planet. Anyone can now become a channel to the divine love that is being showered on us through cosmic portals. (for more on this go to onenessuniversity.org*)

This energy can be intentionally directed (by those initiated to do so*) to accelerate our own process of becoming, or transmitted to everyone in our vicinity; from family, to friends and acquaintances, work colleagues and in fact to anything anywhere. It can be installed into art works or music that will become transmitters themselves. Many Oneness initiated artists are now doing this.

The Chakras Column

Chakras column with sushumna

After realising that putting all the coloured chakra symbols on the figure in what is now the Grace image wasn’t going to work, I decided to create the Chakra column as a separate image. I then had to create a background that merged one element into another starting with earth at the bottom and working up through the water and fire etc to the higher spiritual chakras.

As mentioned, I have designed, written and illustrated an ebook that accompanies this work. It is a detailed account of the philosophy, research, travel, photography and months of compositing and post production that led to its creation. Please click on the link above to get your copy!