While the mother truck of the Dodda Alada Mara Banyan is now missing, it supports thousands of light gray branches reaching up, juxtaposed with a ground of rich red earth. A temple sits on the spot of the now deceased mother trunk, offerings are made, bells ring, flames purify. In January 2014, we entered this sacred space arms filled with black ropes made from human hair and yellow and red cotton string. These were the instruments we used to measure and survey the physical space. Grove visitors worked with us to map the meaning of this place through actions, sharing stories and documenting our mutual findings, using a hand-to-shoulder system, an everyday form of measurement in India. As a participatory event, the collaboration helped to map the scale and generate data through many different bodies, as our records of measurement.
The cloth tags on the ropes include GPS data, measurement, date, measuring surveyor and other incidental data. This process helped deepen our understanding of the physical and psychological distances between us, and community collaborators at the site, enabling us to reflect on our points of origin, creating a new understanding of our lived experiences. Our ropes, tags and documentation, were packed up and traveled with us back to California, to be used for measurement tools in in the San Francisco Bay Area.