Sunday, 11 September 2011

Parth Sanyal: The Kadaiwallahs

Photo © Parth Sanyal-All Rights Reserved
A couple of weeks before the start of my Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo-Expedition/Workshop, I am particularly pleased to have stumbled on Parth Sanyal's website through a link on Global Post's photo blog PlanetPic, because one of his galleries depicts the Kadaiwallahs (men with large pans), the gold scavengers of Kolkata.

About 200 gold scavengers make an meagre living by collecting gold dust from the narrow lanes housing the small gold factories of Kolkata. They collect the dust in large metal pans, and burn the impurities with acid hoping to be left with tiny gold particles.

Indians consider it auspicious to buy gold during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, when the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, is worshipped. The period from October to February is high seasons for gold buying, however with its price skyrocketing, consumers are looking for alternatives, and this impacts the Kadaiwallahs livelihood. Their occupation is an ancient one; they've been doing this traditional and crude means of collecting gold since the 16th century during the Mughal Rule.

Parth Sanyal has been covering South Asia over the last 18 years for various Indian newspapers and global wire services. He has worked for The Independent in Mumbai, The Hindu group of publications and Reuters. His photographs appeared in the International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, New York Times, The Guardian, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Boston Globe, National Geography online and Global Post.