Manjari Sharma artist talk

Artist Manjari Sharma's Darshan series is the result of a multi-year project to photographically recreate a temple-like experience of nine Hindu deities, which required the cross-continental organization of a large team of models and craftspeople.

In this artist talk, held in conjunction with the exhibition Transcendent Deities of India: The Everyday Occurrence of the Divine, Sharma discusses the genesis and execution of the project and is joined from India by Payal Bhattacharya, the woman who portrayed one of the most challenging characters in the series, Maa Kali.

Make yourself a cup of chai using Manjari Sharma's family recipe (below) to enjoy while watching the talk. 



Notes from Manjari Sharma about how she makes her family chai recipe: 

Ingredients for two cups

  • A saucepan and a chai strainer (available on Amazon) 
  • 2 cups of water 
  • 3" piece of fresh ginger root 
  • A tablespoon of dried fennel deeds (saunf) 
  • 1-2 pods of green cardamom 
  • Freshly ground pepper  
  • Honey 
  • Loose-leaf black tea leaves*  

Few things bring me as much joy as making chai for myself and a friend, and here is how I do it. 

Bring two cups of water to boil. 

If you have a mortar and pestle, pound a 3" piece of unpeeled, well-washed ginger root, and throw the smashed ginger into the boiling water. Make sure you don't leave any of the precious ginger juice behind in the mortar and pestle. I find pounding my ginger the easiest way to incorporate its flavor into the water, but that's also because my mortar and pestle sit right by the gas stove. Alternatively, you can chop or grate your ginger into the water. I don't peel my ginger, I just do a coarse chop or a quick grate into the water. Give that a couple of minutes to brew on its own. 

Add a tablespoon of fennel seeds and let that brew for another minute. 

Peel your cardamom pods so you can expose the mini black seeds inside it and drop those into the water. Alternatively, you can roughly pound them in the mortar and pestle and add into the water. Let these three spices brew for a couple of minutes. 

Now add fresh pepper to the water. I crack my pepper mill about five times, but please base this on how much "pepper heat" you enjoy. 

After another minute of brewing, add two tablespoons of loose leaf black tea and let the water rise to a boil. 

Turn it down, so it's simmering and add 1/4 cup of milk into the mix. 

Bring it to a boil again and turn off the flame. Put a lid on the saucepan and let it stay that way for another full minute. The longer you leave it, the "stronger" the tea gets. 

Now strain the chai into your favorite cup. Add honey to taste and enjoy. Please note that if you don't have the rest of the ingredients, your chai will be delicious with just ginger root and fresh cracked pepper. 

For a simple yet addictive alternative, add coarsely chopped fresh lemongrass to your water and then, after a boil, add the tea leaves and follow the same steps as above. 

I hope this chai brings you the endless joy and lively conversations it has brought me.  

*The types of loose leaf black tea I am talking about are Single Estate Darjeeling tea and an orange pekoe blend of tea leaves. You can find an orange pekoe relatively easily in stores. My mom always mixed two types of tea leaves for our chai. Mom swore that one gave it the right color, and the other had the perfect flavor, so she mixed equal parts of Brooke Bond Taj Mahal and Brooke Bond Red Label. Brooke Bond teas are available on Amazon.


Transcendent Deities of India: The Everyday Occurrence of the Divine is organized by Asia Society Texas Center.