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Sunday, 3 April 2005    
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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Spiritual Saffron

by Umangi de Mel

"Every moment of our life is very precious. You let go of one, God will never give you that moment again. Likewise most of the images are instant. It's yours if you strike at that moment," says Tilak Hettige, Photographer, who launched his book 'Saffron Robes', a photographic essay on Buddhist monks, on March 24.

Capturing monks in saffron robes, shaven heads and begging bowls in the ancient temples in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and remote villages in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tilak's beautiful images have been able to take the viewer into the very world of monks and the sanctuary of their monasteries.

Inspired by the yellow, orange and red colours that add richness to image, Tilak says he has also associated saffron colour with spirituality.

"That's probably because the monks detach themselves from lay people's lives, to live a more focused life looking for eternal happiness."

Having gone to 15 countries in search of the colours that symbolise the decay and impermanence of life, Tilak has captured the unique moments in the lives of the Buddhist monks and other holy men in saffron and white robes.

A chemical engineer by profession, Tilak has been into photography since 1981. He won international recognition when he became the photographer of the year in the international photographic society, Washington DC in 1997. His work has been published in many books, international newspapers, magazines and calendars.

Having had many exhibitions in Philippines, he says that photography is all about creating the shot, using the fundamental visual blocks.

Having a soft spot for people and ordinary lifestyles, Tilak says one has to learn how to see... Explaining it further, he says photography is nothing about technicality but emotions eliminating what distracts the image. "You've got to learn how to view things," he says.

Seeing beauty in ordinary things Thilak's silent works of art have enabled the lay people to see serenity in the stainless saffron robes.

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