Sunday, 25 March 2012

Final Day: The Oracles Of Kodungallur

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I must've traveled to India over 20 times since 1998, and criss-crossed in length and breadth reasonably thoroughly. However, I have never seen or attended a religious event of the emotional intensity and visual magnetism as the Bharani festival in Kodungallur.

It is here that once a year the so-called Oracles of Kodungallur meet to celebrate both Kali and Shiva. By the many hundreds, and perhaps thousands, these red-clad oracles arrive in this area of Kerala, and perform self mortification acts by banging on their heads with ceremonial swords repeatedly until blood trickle down their foreheads, and daub the wounds with turmeric. The Bharani festival lasts for three days.

The festival was attended by many thousands, and (in my view) surpassed the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in intensity and religious fervor. We all marveled at how everyone at the festival, most of whom were from small villages of the area, were so welcoming, protective and friendly.

I was perfectly placed near the local royal (or maharaja) who was mobbed by attendees, eager for his blessings. While a couple of policemen protected me from the rush of the mobs, I stayed long enough to get a couple of shots of the royal, and left that area which was becoming very risky.

An incredible close to a thrilling photo workshop.

Tomorrow the group is having a final class in multimedia, with only one photo shoot planned at the Cheraman Juma Masjid; the first Muslim mosque in the whole of India, built in 629 AD. Having experienced a short photo shoot at its medrasa this morning, we are all eager to add an Islamic flavor to our photo expedition.