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What does Mireille-J. Guézennec know about Varanasi?

Dressed in immaculate Indian attire, bindi and bangles in place, Mireille-Josephine Guézennec could easily be mistaken for a passing tourist indulging in the exotic. But there is a lot more to this beautiful lady from France than meets the eye.

When I heard Mireille speak with authority about Varanasi, my cynicism changed from disbelief to respect. And continued to grow many fold when I saw her latest book titled ‘Bénarès-Kâshî-Vârânasî : voyage intiatique dans la capitale spirituelle de l’Inde”, 450 pages, illustrated with 500 photographs each shot by herself, and rich text, where Mireille has been able to wade through the complexities of social structure, understand in depth the sensibilities and logic of the various rituals, giving an insider’s take on the philosophy, local art, the famous sunrise on the river and the dawn on the banks of the Ganga and more.

Published in November 2013, the book was launched in Paris at the Embassy of India. This book is yet in French and is soon to be translated into English, for a more global launch.

Mireille has been a regular visitor to India for the past three decades, travelling across its length and breadth in her capacity as an international reporter and photographer. It helped that she has a special degree in Indian philosophy and Sanskrit, and is a professor of philosophy in France. Her extensive reportage is a culmination of her in depth study of the local traditions, art and culture, and has earned her the National Award from the Indian Ministry of Tourism, in the category “Best Foreign photographer for India” in 2007.

Her journeys into the Himalayan regions of Nagaland, Assam, and particularly Uttarakhand have her fascinated with Ganga, resulting in books such as – “Gange aux sources du fleuve éternel” ( 320 pages, 308 photos) Editions Cheminements – France (2005); “Ganga in search of the sources” published by Rupa and Co – Delhi (2006); and “Gange l’appel des sources” Rupa and Co publisher – Delhi (2007). In 2009, her book “INDE singulière et plurielle” (360 pages- 500 photos) Editions Cheminements was published in France under the patronage of UNESCO (Commission nationale française de l’UNESCO).

“What is it that draws you to India, and Hinduism?” I ask. Mireille replies with a smile, “If you want a logical answer, I would say that I am a professor of philosophy and as I have studied Vedic philosophy and read ancient text I am naturally drawn to India. But the truth, if I would say, is that I am a born again Indian, living my past Karma.”

Mireille has a Guru who lives in South India. She was initiated with an Indian name, Himabindu, very appropriately indicative of her love for the Himalayas. She prefers to be called HImabindu.

She has won several prestigious awards, such as – “National Awards Kodak” as “Laureate Kodak Grand Reportage” in 1991 for her photographs on Indian classical dances. In January 2009 she was the recipient of the prestigious“Chevallier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques ”. She lives in Paris, but travels globally attending lectures and seminars, or as a critic or reporter. She is a practicing astrologer. And a very good one at that. She has also trained in Indian classical dance at Paris and Chennai.

We wish Himabindu good luck and God speed for her book in English.

By Neelima Agrawal

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