Posts Tagged ‘hindu’

The Cowherds

June 10th, 2011

Hyderabad is a fantastic and interesting place.

We were lucky enough to have a great driver who doubled as a tour guide on my trip there. As we were driving on a highway, I spotted the ruin of a mosque rising up from the small buildings to the right of us.

I asked the driver to stop, and we entered the narrow streets and headed towards it. And there it was, around the bend. Absolutely beautiful. Overgrown with green. Small plants and flowers growing out of cracks. Hundreds of years old, by the looks of it. Neglected. Crumbling. Seeming forgotten despite the bustle of life around it.

The mosque turned out to be inaccessible. Walled off from all sides. The driver, a man in his sixties, told us that he used to come often to that neighbourhood as a child. But as sectarian troubles began to increase between Hindus and Muslims, gradually the Muslims left the neighbourhood.

Round the back of the mosque, we came across a herd of cows and goats, tied up and docile.

Turned out the Hindu family nearby were raising them. Also turned out that the family elder was our driver’s wrestling instructor when he was a child. They hadn’t seen each other in some fifty years. It was an extraordinary moment.

We got to spend a little time with the family, and eventually I was allowed to take pictures.

The elder:

The son:

Father & son:

I feel privileged to have gotten a glimpse at a different side of life in India. One not many people get to see.

More coming soon!

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Posted in Animals, People, Portraits, Travel/Urban | Comments (1)

Temples

December 18th, 2009

Architecture is the most enduring of all of mankind’s different forms of cultural expression. Paintings and drawings may fade, paper and papyrus may crumble to dust, day to day items may vanish,  – architecture outlasts them all. Think Petra, or the great pyramids of Egypt or of the Mayan and Incan cultures. Think the Roman ruins in Baalbeck, Lebanon, or the Angkor Wat, or the Great Wall of China, or the Sacre Coeur in Paris, or the countless other reminders of cultural heritage.

It seems to me that some of the most striking examples of cultural expression in architecture often tend(ed) to appear in structures of religious significance. You may say this approach largely no longer applies to our modern, perhaps more secular, times where you could argue that extraordinary expressions in architecture are now almost exclusively the domain of the private sector – high-rise, hotels, office and residential buildings (Burj Dubai, anyone?). But that’s a discussion for another place between more qualified people than I.

I can certainly say that the most striking examples of architecture that I saw in the short time I was  in Bangalore were the Hindu temples I visited, or glimpsed hear and there while on the road. I was less impressed by the only other architectural standouts like the Bangalore Palace or government buildings such as the Vidhana Soudha or the bright red Attara Kacheri (High Court).

All the temples I saw seemed to be of the Dravida (featuring towers with progressively smaller storeys of pavilions) variant prevalent in the South (see here for more info on Hindu temple architecture). These temples are some of the most beautiful structures I have yet seen. The brightness of the colours and the intricacy of the carvings – very striking. I wish I had the time to learn more about them and the culture behind it. I intend to, at some point.

I only managed to visit three temples. I’m using visit in the loosest of ways, of course. I glimpsed quite a few more peppered here and there all over the place. If only there had been time to visit them all.

Temples were hidden in the most unlikely places. You might turn a corner on a tiny side street and suddenly see a beautiful multi-coloured tower rising invitingly in the distance:

An Invitation (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f3.5, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

I came across one very small but beautiful temple while exploring side streets behind Commercial Street. I daren’t enter for fear of offence and thus only saw what was visible from the gate. A few pictures appear below:

The Golden Gate (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 100mm, f5.6, ISO 1000, 1/50sec)

Stones (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 112mm, f5.6, ISO 500, 1/60sec)

The Trident (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 60mm, f4.8, ISO 1000, 1/80sec)

The only temple I had the chance to properly visit and explore was the ISKON temple. The temple site is massive, and the temple itself is a sprawling wonder. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed inside, so the pictures below are a sample from those very few I took from outside (time was the big limitation here).

Two things stay with me from that visit.

The first thing is the privilege of observing people expressing their faith in little big ways. One lady with her young son humbly made an offering at one of the smaller shrines on the granite steps leading up to the main temple. I, along with some friends, stopped at these shrines a while to discreetly watch. And learn. One man I met at each of the shrines. The first time I saw him he was prostrated on the ground before the first. When he had completed his prayers there, he proceeded to complete 108 revolutions around each of the shrines, chanting as he went.

The second thing is the extremely … dare I say, commercial, approach the guys at the ISKON temple took to everything. Entire sections, collectively bigger than the main temple shrines, were dedicated to selling all sorts of stuff, from ISKON approved books to scarves, posters, trinkets and all manner of foodstuffs.

I can understand the need of a non-profit organisation to raise funds, so that bit there isn’t on its own what struck me as odd.

It was that coupled with what one of the guys said at a counter we were led to behind the main shrine after the blessings. He started by requesting donations – telling us about the impressive Food for Life program. But then he showed us sketches and renderings of a new, bigger temple and grounds they were planning to build somewhere in Bangalore.

He lost me at the point where he said they wanted to make it like Disneyland. As in, rollercoaster rides and everything.

He was serious.

I’m confused.

The Sprawling Complex (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f3.5, ISO 200 - HDR)

The Tower (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 82mm, f5.3, ISO 200, 1/1000sec)

This temple here below I glimpsed from a bridge as I was heading to the airport with some of my friends. The car stopped by the side of the road to allow the other vehicle in our convoy (the one with the luggage) to catch up with us. I asked the driver if he could go back so I could take a closer look. He duly obliged, reversing some 200 meters on the highway.

The temple was about 50 meters in, away from the main road, hidden behind lush green trees. It appeared to be completely abandoned. I’m not sure if that really is the case, or if people only use it occasionally.

The Abandoned Temple (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 36mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

I don’t know why the entrance features very prominent fangs in the gateway. But that doesn’t strike me as particularly inviting.

The Toothy Entrance (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 38mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

The Figures (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

To finish, I leave you with this shot, taken from a car whisking us off to a wedding-related event:

The Brightly Coloured Tower (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f3.5-5.6 @ 34mm, f8, ISO 200 - HDR)

More pictures coming soon!

However , I can’t promise the next post may not be in two days. I’m going to be travelling for a bit and my access to the internet is likely to be erratic. 🙂

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Bangalore Portraits – Part II

December 2nd, 2009

Here are a few more portraits of the interesting people whose paths crossed mine in the short time I spent in Bangalore.

In colour, this time (well, mostly).

I met these men on a side street off Commercial Street. They were deep in conversation. I liked the symmetry of the two men on the benches, and the determined, but kind, air of the man standing by the door. I paused to say hullo, and asked if I could take their picture.

Three Men and a Door (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f4, ISO 200, 1/125sec)

If you notice, the door has a decorative Hindu form of the swastika symbol. This should not be confused with the Nazi variant. It’s use in the Asian subcontinent can represent a range of things depending on the context, the direction it facing and the religion (it’s a sacred symbol in each of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Mithraism). It is commonly associated with evolution, stability (as it faces in each of North, South, East and West), and even the movement of the sun. You can find out more here.

Below are drum sellers, father and son. I met them on a street parallel to Commercial Street. The son spent a good deal of time trying to convince me to buy a drum from him. At an outrageous price, no less. I whittled him down to less than a tenth of his initial asking price (no joke) but, I mean, what use do I have for a drum? I told him so, and offered to take his picture instead. He agreed, and I took a few portraits of him alone, and then of him with his father.

He still insisted that if I wasn’t about to buy a drum off him, then at least I should give him some money so he could feed himself and his dad. He insisted on being given money. But when we spotted a fruit seller, I was happy to offer him and his father a salad.

The Drum Sellers (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/100sec)

Here is the fruit seller as he cut up a pineapple preparing the salad for the drum sellers:

The Fruit Seller (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 35mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/200sec)

There were quite a few fruit sellers pushing carts along on the streets of Bangalore.

Rolling Along (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/320sec)

When heading back towards Commercial Street on another small side street, I came across a little tailor’s shop. It had no door and was entirely open onto the street. I stopped for a quick hello and the tailors paused for a few moments in their work for a few pictures.

Here are two of the resulting portraits:

The Tailor I (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 78mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/60sec + flash SB900)

The Tailor II (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 48mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/60sec)

This woman accosted me at the top of Commercial Street as I was waiting for a few friends to join me. She tried to sell me a map of India. I convinced her to let me take a picture of her instead.

She disappeared before I could take a closer shot of her face.

The Map Seller (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/250sec + flash SB900)

This man and his tuk-tuk which was overflowing with blue sacks hauled up alongside our car at a junction:

Tuk-Tuk Man (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 30mm, f3.8, ISO 200, 1/500sec)

I spotted this woman as we passed down a busy street. I loved the colours of the posters, and the odd mix of religious  and other subjects. If you notice, she’s holding a young child in her lap, partially covered in her sari.

The Poster Seller (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 90mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/60sec - slightly cropped)

More pictures coming soon!

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Bangalore – Slices of Life – Part I

November 28th, 2009

Bangalore is a busy and bustling place. It’s a city that has grown enormously in recent years to become the IT heart of India.

I tried to capture as much of the life and spirit of the city as I could in the short time I was there. Unfortunately, time was very limited and traffic was so frustratingly bad it took forever to get from place to place. The end result was that what I saw of  Bangalore was mostly what zipped, or crawled, by a car window.

I spotted this mother and daughter as they were heading home from school:

Heading Home From School (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 65mm, f5, ISO 200, 1/640sec)

Seen off a side street leading onto Commercial Street:

Moped Man (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/400sec)

I wonder what he’s got in that sack of his…

It was interesting seeing how Hindu neighbourhoods were followed by Muslim neighbourhoods. The differences between the neighbourhoods tended to range from the subtle … to the less subtle. Take the shot below, for example:

Hubby & Wife (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f3.5, ISO 200, 1/1000sec)

Seems the sun does occasionally shine in darkened places. Seen in an underpass:

Sunny Side Up (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f3.5, ISO 200, 1/2000sec)

This was taken from the car, while waiting our turn at a junction. The tuk-tuk/auto driver and I rolled our eyes at the traffic and exchanged smiles before I took this.

Drag Racing (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 70mm, f5, ISO 200, 1/80sec)

I spotted this man sweeping the streets on the other side of the road:

Sweeper Man (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 135mm, f5.6, ISO 200, 1/125sec)

A fruit stall on Brigade Street:

Fruits! (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 75mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/125sec)

I loved the brightness of the colours.

We met these friendly people around the bustling entrance to Cubbon Park, by the exit to the courts:

People Outside Cubbon Park (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 24mm, f5, ISO 200, 1/80sec)

This woman was sweeping away dead leaves in one of the small gardens just off Cubbon Park:

Sweeper Lady (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 68mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/320sec)

This is probably one of the odder sights I saw in Bangalore. I have no idea why this man why carrying a dummy…

Dummy-On-A-Stick Man (D700, Tamron 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 56mm, f8, ISO 200, 1/160sec)

More pictures coming soon!

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