Pawan Giri Baba had a flair for story telling. Intoxicated, he narrated tales of wars fought along the banks of Ganges. "Ganga lal ho gaya tha uss dhin!" (The Ganges had turned red that day) he concluded with an exaggerated gesture.The pilgrims nevertheless continued on their journey to wash away their sins. The daily Ganga Aarthi is by far one of the most important customs in Haridwar. Although my friends who have been to Varnasi tells me that it isn't half as beautiful. Haridwar was dotted with beautiful Ghats. My favorite being the Birla Ghat near the Lalkar bridge. I wonder what kind of faith grips the pilgrims to force themselves into the freezing water early in the morning. Atleast, my fingers had gone numb trying to click a picture! They come from lands far far away, with hardly any money in their pockets but braving all the hurdles that comes their way. The Kumbh Mela was a great networking platform for the Sadhus. Old friends, devotees etc came in search of their favorite guru at the Mela. And the Sadhus some times went on social visits along the ghats. The Shiva Giri Baba was by far the greatest showman on the ghats. He did not hestitate to call me for a 'photo opportunity' when he saw me loitering around the ghats with a camera. Feb. 12, 2010. The day was auspicious. It was Maha Shivarathri and the Naga Babas were gathered at the Maya Devi temple in Juna Akhada for the procession to the Ganges to begin. It was a queer sight. Watching blue naked bodies struggling to grab a piece of garland! And then there were children dressed as Naga Babas. My prejudiced mind wished they were safe. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. I've heard many stories about how poor people give up their children to Sadhus simply because they are unable to feed them themselves. But I believe one needs to look beyond the Kumbh Mela to get to the real story. Even as the days sped by, pilgrims continued to flock into Haridwar...hoping to be released from the cycle of life and death. Hoping to attain Moksha.
31 March 2010
28 March 2010
24 March 2010
Back stage, the bulls were refusing to move towards the narrow passage clogged by the participants. A little birdie told me that bull owners often resort to rubbing lime in the eyes of the bull and other inhuman activities to pep up the show. When questioned about it, quite predictably, they staunchly refused. But the bottom line was that the poor animal was scared.Once the bull is released into the arena, the more enterprising young men lung for the bull hoping to cling on to its back until they reach the m victory mark amidst the great din raised by the excited crowd. A lot (actually most) of the participants ('Veerans' as they are popularly called) were terrified of the charging bulls. In fact, it was quite difficult to tell who felt more threatened - the men or the beast. The men tried to scramble over the crumbling bamboo fences and the beast would be struggling to throw the man of its back to just escape the crowd and the noise. One of the low points for a Veeran is when a bull manages to throw him off its back and when he lands right in front of the bull, thus making himself an easy target for the beast. Although there have been a lot of instances in the past where the participants were gored by the bull, this year, the participants managed to keep themselves alive although some of them sustained injuries. All that the bull seemed to care about was the route of escape. Only, the field opened into the village where the bull would go charging into anything it finds in its way. Much of the Jallikattu causalities happen during this time, when the half drunk, half dazed villagers are caught by surprise by the bull. If the bull manages to shake the participant off its back before the m mark, the bull owner gets the prize, if not, the Veeran gets the prize. But often, more than one Veeran clings onto the bull (which is against the rules of the sport) and often all the men who clung on to the same beast are disqualified. Fist fights are common. Wounds are preserved fresh in the memories until the next year's Jallikattu. All in the name of a trophy in the form of a steel vessel. The spectators seemed never once disappointed. They were omnipresent. Perched on roof tops, walls etc. Cheering on, whistling, hooting. The event went on for the entire day and the bull owners left with a promise to return next year. Disclaimer : These images were shot in RAW format and later converted to its present avatar using Photoshop (the filter is called 'stamp'). If you'd like to try something similar, I would highly recommend you to try out this effect first, because afterthoughts just don't work.