Mave On The Move Week 32

David M. Byrne

Well-Known Member
Hello again,

It has been a busy, oh so busy week - 9 days, actually, days 217 to 225 of the trip. Those 9 days have brought me to the end of my 5 weeks in India & in doing so I have taken in some of the country’s top-tier highlights: the Sikh holy city of Amritsar; Agra & its Taj Mahal; the Hindu oasis of Varanasi; & finally the British colonial colossus of Kolkata (Calcutta). Four amazing destinations in 9 days means plenty of pictures. Culling images for this entry wasn't easy. It’s my biggest entry photo wise, a bumper, double entry if you like. I failed miserably to keep it to the 7-9 images Mave On The Move RPF readers have become accustomed to. Apologies in advance. Air your grievances in the comments section as well as letting me know your favourite picture from this entry.
I’d be curious to know.

Picture 154, Day 218 - The Golden Temple, Amritsar, Punjab, India. October 9th 2012

A real highlight of my trip to India thus far was the recent few days I spent in Amritsar, the capital of the north western Indian state of Punjab. This is the centre of the Sikh faith & the site of its holiest shrine, the Golden Temple. The gold-plated gurdwara (a Sikh place of worship) glitters like a gold bullion bar in the middle of its holy pool Amrit Sarovar (Pool of Nectar) from which the town takes its name.

Picture 155, Day 218 - Crowds on the Old City streets of Amritsar, Punjab, India. October 9th 2012

As luck would have it my visit to Amritsar coincided with the birthday of Sikhism’s fourth guru who also just happened to be the founder of the city. Needless to say it was probably one of the best/busier days of the year to visit (it was totally coincidental). I took the above picture from the rooftop of my hotel. It seemed like everyone in India was either going to or from the Golden Temple (to the left of this mage). It was quite the spectacle.

Link: The dMb Photography Blog - Amritsar.

Picture 156, Day 218 – Indian Flag, India-Pakistan Border, Punjab, India. October 9th 2012

The India-Pakistan border is 32kms from Amritsar in the Indian state of Punjab. That state was partitioned in 1947, when India gained independence from the British, to create present day Pakistan. On my only evening in Amritsar I swapped the devote crowds of the town’s Golden Temple for the carnivalesque crowds who flock nightly to the border to witness the rather bizarre border closing ceremony. The border area is a 200 metre road spanning the geographical border between the two countries. The road is lined by grandstands & divided by a gate, either side of which gather spectators - Indians to the east, Pakistanis to the west. In a highly choreographed ceremony played out nightly at sunset in front of compere-stoked crowds, guards on either side parade up & down in front of their home audience before eventually stomping, high-kicking & marching their way, fists clenched, to the gate to meet their opposite number. The ceremony can only be described as pure theatre; the carnival atmosphere, the over-the-top posturing, marching & high leg kicking means it’s a scene that could have been lifted straight out of a Monty Python sketch. I found myself wondering if any of the participants were, or do, take it seriously (the crowd certainly don’t). It’s a bizarre show of border bravado between 2 nuclear-armed neighbours, ones who don’t particular like each other & who have fought 3 wars since Pakistan’s formation in 1947. But at least it proved somewhat photogenic.

Picture 157, Day 218 – Spectator, India-Pakistan Border. Punjab, India. October 9th 2012

I had a humorous conversation with a tuk-tuk driver in Varanasi this week who questioned me as to where in India I had been prior to getting to his city. He was an Indian lads lad & when I told him I’d recently been to Punjab he commented - & gestured to get the point across - as to how Punjabi women were attractive. Seemingly women from the Punjab region (and to a lesser extent Kerala in the south, where I spent my first week in India) are renowned India wide for their beauty & are Bollywood targets. I immediately thought of this picture, taken some 6 days earlier at the India-Pakistan border closing ceremony.

Link: This picture is one of my favourites in my ‘People Of India’ gallery, housing my favourite people captures from my various ports of call in India.

Picture 158, Day 220 – The Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. October 11th 2012

The Taj Mahal needs little to no introduction. A bulbous white-marble architectural masterpiece without equal, its India’s top draw and one, if not the most famous building in the world. It’s so well known & so photographed that it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to claim it’s a building recognised even by those who haven’t visited. That makes photographing it somewhat of a challenge. People expect to see the two Taj money shots: the Taj from under the arch of the South Gate & the Taj as reflected in the decorative pools of the ornamental gardens fronting the structure. I was there for sunrise (in this picture you see the rising sun starting to illuminate the southern face of the Taj) & got those shots too (you can see them on my blog, link below) but in general I tried to be, as I always am, somewhat creative with the shots I took. One of my favourite captures of the day was the above image from the south-western corner of the raised marble platform the Taj sits in the middle of. At each corner of the platform sits a 40m-high minaret, two of which can be seen here. They - the minarets - are purely decorative & after three centuries are not quite perpendicular. While in this wide-angle image the minarets appear to be leaning towards the Taj they are actually leaning slightly outwards. It is speculated this is a design feature to ensure the minarets fall away from the Taj in the event of an earthquake. This picture shows well the perfect symmetry of the structure - the Taj is such that it looks identical when viewed from any of its 4 sides.

Picture 159, Day 220 - Walkers, The Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. October 11th 2012

A picture of people entering the central burial chamber of the Taj Mahal. I sat outside the entrance for a while taking pictures of people meandering across the bright, white marble expanse in front of the Taj en route to the structures central burial chamber. The Taj was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. It was built by the Moghul emperor Shan Jahan as a mausoleum to his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631 shortly after giving birth to her 14th child. That makes the Taj the ultimate, most extravagant monument ever built to eternal love. 20,000 craftsmen from all over Asia spent 21 years (1632-1653) building what is now classed as the zenith of Moghul architecture.

Link: The dMb Photography Blog- The Taj Mahal.

Picture 160, Day 221 – Boat Crowd, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. October 12th 2012

The first of six pictures from Varanasi (it’s that kind of place), my next stop after Agra and penultimate stop in India. When the decision was made to add a return to India to this trip itinerary it was done so chiefly with the city of Varanasi in mind - to get the chance to wield a camera there one more time was reason enough for me to tackle India again – my previous visit to the city in March of 2008 remains one of my very favourite photographic experiences. Varanasi, the Hindu holy city by the sacred River Ganges, is a unique, world-class people-watching location. The everyday activity on the ghats lining the river - people bathing, washing clothes, doing yoga, offering blessings, selling flowers, getting a haircut or a shave, a massage, playing cricket or just hanging out - is traditional India at its most colourful & picturesque. Photo opportunities abound. And then some. This is a picture I took of people in a boat on the edge of the River Ganges. It was taken on my first evening in the city having just arrived from Agra.

Picture 161, Day 222 – Bathers, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. October 13th 2012

India, a country of 1.3 billion, 82% of which are Hindus, has thousands of Hindu holy sites. Seven, a number with special significance in Hinduism, of these are sacred cities, major pilgrimage centres. Varanasi, the centre of the Hindu world & one of the oldest cities on earth, is the most revered & the chosen final pilgrimage destination for the very sick or elderly - dying in this sacred city, it is said, releases a person from the Hindu cycle of rebirth. Pilgrims come here to bathe in the river believing doing so will bring purity to the living (cleansing of the soul) and salvation to the dead. I was down by the river at sunrise on both mornings I was in the city to witness, & of course photograph, the activity. This picture captures Varanasi perfectly – bathers/devotees, rowers & rubbish.

Picture 162, Day 222 – Sadhu, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. October 13th 2012

The above is my favourite people shot from my time in Varanasi. A sadhu devotes his life to the religion, wandering here & there on the trail to religious salvation. This sadhu is somewhat overdressed - they are normally half-naked, smeared in dust, with hair & beard matted. But say what you will, all that dust & unkempt hair is oh-so photogenic. This picture was taken as I was walking around (read ably getting lost) in the Old City, a disorientating labyrinth of narrow - too narrow for vehicular traffic - lanes leading away from the river. The Old City part of Varanasi is actually only a few hundred years old but because of all the claustrophobia, noise, dust & mayhem it looks, feels & smells much, much older. It's a great place to get lost and an even better place to bring a camera. The lighting at this particular corner was awesome & I stood here for a while hidden by the corner waiting for subjects, illuminated from behind, to come into view.

Picture 163, Day 222 – Drink, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. October 13th 2012

Another picture I like that was captured while wandering the Old Town is this one of a boy drinking from a tap/faucet.

Picture 164, Day 223 – Ganges Armada. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. October 14th 2012

The touristy thing to do in Varanasi is to get a sunrise boat ride on the Ganges which is why sunrise is rush hour on the river. Why I’m not too sure. In amongst the activity on any of the 80 ghats, ancient stairways leading down to the water, lining 7km of Varanasi riverfront is, in my opinion, a much better place to be.

Picture 165, Day 223 – Varanasi Trio, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. October 14th 2012

The last picture from Varanasi is one three boys in a closed lane in the Old City. Again the lighting here was awesome so I stood here for a long while waiting for subjects to pass. Of all the subjects that obliged by walking past (men, old ladies, sadhus etc.) I like this picture of three mischievous boys the most.

Link: The dMb Photography Blog-Varanasi.

Picture 166, Day 224 – Badu Ghat, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India. October 15th 2012

My last stop in India was its second biggest city (population over 13 million), Kolkata (Calcutta). It’s a city that gets a bad rap. Yes, it has its fair share of beggars & its streets are a teeming, (likable) mass of human existence but give it a chance and it’ll surprise you. It did me, but needed two attempts to do so (I have few memories, good or otherwise, of first & only other visit here in November of 2002). This is a picture I took of bathers bathing in the murky waters of the Hooghly River at the Babu Ghat, a distinctly seedy area of the city but one considered holy to Hindu Kolkatans.

Picture 167, Day 224 – Tana rickshaw-wallah , Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India. October 15th 2012

The above picture is of a tana rickshaw-wallah waiting for a fare on the Sudder Street, the touristy ghetto of Kolkata (Calcutta). The city is the last bastion of human-powered 'tata rickshaws' in India. Many of the wallahs (used in combination: person in charge of or employed at a particular thing) are virtually destitute, sleeping on the pavements under their rented chariots. Some feel the idea of a barefooted man pulling people around the unsanitary, flooded streets morally unacceptable, including some in government - no new tana-rickshaw licenses have been issued for years & since 2003 the West Bengal administration has toyed with the idea of outlawing them altogether. A dying breed, maybe.

Picture 168, Day 225 – Victoria Memorial, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India. October 16th 2012

The undoubted highlight of Kolkata (Calcutta) for me was ogling & photographing its colonial buildings. As the former capital of British India the city has some stunning colonial-era buildings. The grandly white-domed 1866 General Post Office & the pastel façade of the High Court are particularly appealing remnants of the British past but even they can’t hold a candle to this, the massive colonial folly that is the Victoria Memorial. Built to commemorate Queens Victoria’s 1901 Diamond jubilee, although not finished until 20 years after her death, it’s easily one of the most impressive buildings in the country (it’s up there with the Taj Mahal & the gothic Victoria Terminus train station in Mumbai (Bombay), somewhere I didn’t get back to on this trip). Pictures were not allowed inside the galleries of the building itself but that’s ok because having viewed it both inside & out I can say that it’s best viewed from one of many outdoor vantage points (just make sure to pack a wide-angle lens).

Picture 169, Day 225 – Àshutosh Mukherjee Road, Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India, October 16th 2012

And so to my final picture for this entry & from India. I was late getting back to my hotel from the Victoria Memorial because I stood at this junction for about an hour trying to capture the frenetic scene of people & cars, including Kolkata’s (Calcutta’s) distinctive yellow taxis. It was, as it always is, a lot of fun even if I did attract quite a bit of unwanted attention (and I did).
Link: The dMb Photography Blog-Kolkata (Calcutta)

What/Where Is Next?
That’s India done. 5 weeks dealing with & photographing this country and I’m exhausted. But I’ve loved every minute of it & when I eventually get around to reviewing my favourite captures from the past 5 weeks I know I’m going to want to rush right back and do it all over again… except even better. But I can’t. The trip continues. In a few hours I’ll be on a flight to Hong Kong. It’s hot & busy too, just a different, cleaner hot & busy.

Until next time. Regards one last time from India.

David M

dMb Travel: See where Mave is right now!
where to even start ...
Some more time to read and digest is needed ... but really ... David ... some truly wonderful photos!
I really dont know what to say about some of these ...

The people washing with the bird oof in the foreground ... brilliant
Thats maybe my favorite ... ...

I dont mean to near swoon with sycophancy but these are really something ...
Wonderful post David and some stunning shots. The light in the first is superb but the two that I keep going back to are the second shot, showing the slightly blurred crowds in the street in Amritsar, and the three lads in the lanes in Varanasi. And, if pushed, it is probably that shot that would be my favourite. So much in there from the light in the doorway and the dimly lit street to the burst of action from the lads and the sense of children doing what children do the world over. And in their own world, having their own adventure. Brilliant! :)
Thank you all. I'm not going to lie; a tad verbose maybe but I am kinda proud of this set of images :p
David i think these photos show you settling into India they have a homely comfortable feel.
All the close up people photos are marvellous. My absolute fave are the children three friends ... they remind me of my childhood.