Sunday, 16 March 2014

Report IIX: The Sacred Cities Photo Expedition

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Although we are in the midst of Holi, and Vrindavan and its neighboring towns and villages are getting to feverish point, I chose the above image to accompany this blog report on our photo expedition.

Vrindavan is home to thousands of temples and ashrams, and its buildings, houses and structures are either decorated in religious motifs, gaudy colors and just plain boring drab. We chanced on the exception to this general rule in this Jodhpur-like dwelling, whose texture, patina and color were a welcome sight to our eyes and our cameras. This is only one of the many photographs made of it, and we used it as backdrop for other scenes and environmental portraits.

In the morning, we ventured in the "mouth of the beast", and returned to Banke Bihari Mandir to witness yet another manifestation of faith, gulal-throwing and flower juice being dumped on pilgrims, devotees and tourists (with particular attention and accurate aim at photographers).

Some of us found a toe-hold in the upper galleries for quite a while, and we made some great photographs of the whole courtyard, with glorious color of the pink and yellow against the shafts of light coming into the temple. This went on undisturbed until a bunch of Korean photographers joined us, and we were promptly kicked out of this choice spot. Whether this was because the goswamis had enough of us and were concerned we were photographing the deity, or whether the Koreans irked them in some way, or there was concern that the balustrade wouldn't support our weights...I just don't know. But the fact of the matter was that we were ejected and the door was locked.

It wasn't a big deal as we had already sufficient photographs of the courtyard to last us for a lifetime, so we returned to the ground floor and continue photographing the devotees.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved


Our morning's experience was somewhat marred when one of our group got detached from us, and we spent the better part of an hour to find her amongst the little alleys of Vrindavan. It was with huge relief to be told that she had made her way back to our bus with no mishaps. So all's well that ends well.

Here, I have to say that despite being ambushed a few times by young boys wielding water guns with colored water, we are spared if we are quick to tell them we have cameras on us, and water would ruin them.

In the afternoon, we briefly attended a pantomime dance event on the ghats of the river Yamuna, which depicted Krishna and Radha...and quickly decided to give it a pass. The light was awful, crowded and the music unbearably loud. Instead, we street photographed the old alleys of Vrindavan.