Rambles Into Sacred Realms

Becky Burns's picture

Krish V. Krishnan’s debut book, Rambles into Sacred Realms, about his travels over three decades, complete with artwork from a wide array of media, is a joy to behold on many levels. Not only does this author capture one’s attention with harrowing adventure and breathtaking resolve, but he enhances the experience with a markedly fresh perspective. Krishnan knows his world, and shares it. Providing the reader with just enough historical reference, he winds his stories around corners and through time, allowing for both knowledge and introspection. His artwork is as varied as the places he has visited. Each medium is carefully considered, and he explains why he chooses a charcoal drawing versus a scratchboard; a watercolor versus a sepia wash. Even non-artists will find these descriptions informative, as this personal touch adds humanity. Simple and direct, human touch is an art form, and Krishnan is adept at framing both his writing and his art with grace. 

Knight with a sword - my son in Akko, Israel.

Knight with a sword - my son in Akko, Israel

The collection was compiled by selecting favorite sacred haunts and treasured memories of unforgettable ancient sites. Some stories and paintings are from a time when the author was a young man, wandering and discovering by accident. Others are sought out destinations from a much more experienced traveler, peppered with information shared by guides.  I had the opportunity to interview the author as he was in the initial stages of promoting his book, arranging for signings and talks. He spoke of those moments where his eyes took on a sight so monumental and so breathtaking that it literally stopped him in his tracks.  

When speaking about Actun Tunichil Muknal in Belize, a subterranean world where Maya worshipped through sacrifice, Krishnan reflects on how powerful the experience can be when an inner sense of awe catapults one’s perception. As he turns a corner to behold the cave’s cathedral-like chamber, light streaming in to illuminate stalagmites and stalactites, he tries to imagine it through the eyes of the ancient Maya. “When I’m facing a site as glorious as this, I can only attempt to conceive and recreate what has happened…What prompted the people to go to this place? I am in total awe and transcendence…That is when a painting is born.” 

Tomb in Petra, Jordan.

Tomb in Petra, Jordan

As Krishnan has traveled through the years writing and creating art, he has spanned the dawn of the digital age. In early trips he traveled with just a sketching pad with pencil or crayon, a simple palette, some scraps of paper and a ballpoint pen. In Varanasi, his experience typified much of what he experienced in Asia as a young man: people constantly approached him as he sketched, wanting a portrait, not understanding personal space or time constraints. He humored them and would try to get back to work, often to no avail. A sunset would be lost, the light changed forever. A decade later, he added equipment. Lugging huge camera bags with bulky lenses, he would take a shot and then write down where the light was falling, what insects were chirping, which birds were flying nearby. An experience after visiting Jerusalem where an entire roll of film was whitewashed and ruined helped him learn the importance of not relying on film. This was reinforced with the advent of cameras embedded in phones and tablets, which typically produce images flat and limiting.  His experiences taught him what media needed a photo for later reference, and what scenes were best sketched on site. When creating a scratchboard, a high resolution image was helpful. Krishnan knew that if a camera was to be used, it was necessary to show dimension and texture.  But always the written note about the light source and natural surroundings. This care is seen in his work. In his drawings, he often he adds the detail of a bird perched on a mammoth stone sculpture, reminding us of the size perspective as well as the relationship to nature. In his paintings, light appears to come from within. So much of this is sacred, and yet it is all connected to the earth. 

A temple and mosque in Varanasi, India

A temple and mosque in Varanasi, India

Krishnan is adept at describing the layers and textures of place. In his chapter on the volcano in Hawaii where the goddess Pele is always restless, one gets an image of intense heat simmering under the surface, of rage about to be released. “I learned a lot in a few hours…how nature keeps moving, and how the power of violent, dynamic forces breaks inertia…and that the goddess destroys so that she may create all over again…”  Hawaii is one of his most revered places in the United States. And yet his absolute favorite is Denali, where he spent a week being completely transformed. “It took me 3-4 months to come back to Mother Earth!” 

The sad desecration of sacred sites that is happening today in Iraq and Syria speaks to the continuous struggle to get to a place where one can truly transcend differences. Krishnan speaks of why he purposefully selected twelve different countries to write about in his book. “All countries have places that are sacred, where people have worshipped regardless of their religious sect. Ultimately, we are all the same. It is all about humanity…kids, family, welfare...” Krishnan’s hope is that through travel one will cease to see the cultural divide. This is what happened to him. “Travel completely changed me. I came to understand that multiple cultures, faiths, and sects could co-exist in these sacred places…”

Akko Harbour, Israel.

Akko Harbour, Israel


As I traveled with Krish through his book, the uniqueness of his voice grew on me. I began expecting to be challenged, both intellectually and spiritually. I treasured this man and his rambles! I could see him so clearly, climbing up and ambling for the best perspective, sun beating down, then setting as he thoughtfully sketched with his pen or brush. Then he stops and reveres the magic, the ancient architect, the fauna and flora. 

My Egyptian charge, Giza.

My Egyptian charge, Giza


Rambles Into Sacred Realms offers a way to understand the notion that we are, indeed, all the same. Our human nature is universal. There is no “them” and “us”…there is only “we”.  Krishnan explains: “One of my intentions of writing this book is to spread the message of love…” He has done this very well.

My hope is that our collective eyes will see, and our collective ears will listen. 

 Journeys in pen & paint.


Learn more: http://www.ramblesintosacredrealms.com/




Becky Burns, our Soulful Traveler editor, is an educator living in the Chicago area. Her column will give you insight and inspiration, taking you to the core or essence of the travel experience, something we all feel as a result of exploration and discovery. Look for her monthly postings describing local exploits in and around Chicago, regional road trips in the Midwest, national adventures from coast to coast, and overseas excursions. You are bound to be inspired and enriched, nodding your head in agreement as a familiar reminiscence comes to light again.  You can find her work at beckyburns.com or soothethespirit.com 


All photos courtesy and copyright Krish V. Krishnan


Note: We received a review copy of this book from the publisher - thank you so much!