India—the land of Buddha, karma, meditation, and all kinds of Western infatuation. Self-knowledge and feel-good energy is the spiritual branding of India that has taken hold of late, and while many ascribe to an Eat, Pray, Love version, leave it to the Irish to rack the melancholia and despair up a notch. Say hello to Victoria's Way sculpture garden — a miserably beautiful portrayal of Eastern spiritual progression to enlightenment in County Wicklow, Ireland.
After Irishman Victor Langheld visited India for his own spiritual search, he established Victoria’s Way in 1989 to house the ripe fruits of his contemplation — stone sculptures by India craftsman inspired by Langheld’s visions. The feat took 20 years to complete, but we think you’ll agree it was worth it.
Langheld explains on his website that the park was designed as:
a contemplative space to be used by individuals . . . between about 28 to 60 years of age who feel the need to assess the quality and direction of their lives. It's a sort of mid-life (-crisis) self-reassessment and self-reorientation pilgrimage.
(We take issue at the notion that age 28 constitutes middle age, but will travel virtually on said pilgrimage nevertheless.)
You are spiritually reborn as you pass through a massive vagina dentata, guarded by a stone snake. Then you contemplate the beauty of creation by gazing at a child being born from a rotting human fist. Coming of age reveals itself in the form of a young girl clutched by a busty woman with a scaled-tail for a leg, who laughs psychotically. And if you feel you’ve failed to commit yourself fully to an overarching life goal, you may find camaraderie in the statue of a man screaming as his splits his own head in half with an ax.
And because the classically, chubby, adorable and gently grinning Buddha just doesn't have the edge we’re looking for, Langheid's Buddha is incredibly emaciated, writhing, and possibly on the cusp of death. Finally — to sort of loop everything back to the beginning (?)—a giant finger thrusts from the ground, with a painted inscription advising the onlooker to “Create or die.”
By this point I think you’ll agree with Langheld that “absorption into the virtual reality of Victoria’s Way let’s the wanderer . . . achiev[e] the bliss of momentary freedom.” Maybe those aren’t your exact visceral feelings upon viewing this rather gruesome garden, but the sculptures are sa-weet.
Namaste. (Image: commons.wikimedia.org)