Thursday, 13 March 2014

Report VII: The Sacred Cities Photo Expedition-Workshop

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy- All Rights Reserved
Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy- All Rights Reserved
The merry band of The Travel Photographer's Expedition-Workshop went for a scouting expedition to the very epicenter of the Holi festival in Vrindavan this morning, and walked around the famed Banke Bihari Temple along with the throngs of pilgrims who were chanting Hare Krishna.

The temple's courtyard was already quite full by mid-morning, with the priests and attendants periodically throwing pink and yellow gulal powder and colored flower water at the crowds. We chose not to participate, preferring to postpone our "baptism of fire" for tomorrow when we'd arrive very early in the morning, and get choice spots (if there's such a thing). I noticed the crowds ebbed and waned...and at some point, some of us ventured to the mouth of the courtyard to take a few pictures.

Discussions were already taking place as to the merits (or lack thereof) of wearing a rain poncho, using a wide-angle lens and the rest of our accouterments.

The top photograph was made of a couple of pilgrims who just stopped in their tracks during their circumambulation of the temple asking me to take their picture. This is an interesting spot because there's a spout (above their head) jutting out of the wall, which seems to seep some sort of liquid. Pilgrims would stop and drink some of the liquid's drops.

In the afternoon, we drove to Mathura and attended a village Holi celebration which included Lathmar (women with sticks) event. This eventually devolved into complete mayhem, where youths targeted local women with warm flower water, and the infernal gulal. Some of us also got over-enthusiastically whacked by women, leaving us with welts and small bruises. I feared the women more than the colored powder!

A few of us ventured as close as possible to the focal point of the gulal throwing (see above photograph), and paid the price for it. Ruben Vicente, in particular, got technicolored and doused quite heavily. It was quite a surprise that the hotel allowed us into our rooms, seeing how we raised clouds of fuchsia powder as we walked.