On India’s 72nd Independence Day yesterday (15th Aug 2018), I took some time to put together a montage of some of my favourite images from my 2017 travels through the country. During four incredible months there, I traveled to the states of Assam & Nagaland in northeast India, Chattisgarh & Madhya Pradesh in central India, Uttar Pradesh in north India, & of course, was based in my home-state of Maharashtra in western India. Visiting non-profits working in remote parts of the country, under the most difficult of circumstances, was a truly educational (and humbling) experience for me.
My images pay tribute to an India rarely seen, and rarely ever experienced. Each picture has been captioned below to provide you some background.
(r = row, c = column)
r1c1: CM, the senior-most weaver I met in Bodoland, Assam, holds up the last dokhona (a sari-like garment worn by Bodo women) she had woven, about a year prior to our meeting. In her mid-60s now, she no longer weaves because of her poor eyesight but I had an incredibly fascinating discussion with her. The dokhona she’s holding up is more specifically known as a bidon, as it does not have any woven motifs.
r1c2: A procession of camels creates a roadblock on the outskirts of Raipur city, in the state of Chattisgarh in central India
r1c3: The national bird of India, the Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) photographed in Manas National Park, Assam; a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This male peafowl was busy drying itself after a heavy shower.
r1c4: A Naga woman in Chizami village weaves at home using the traditional back-strap loom. She is one of the 600 weavers who are part of the Chizami Weaves initiative of North East Network, a women’s rights organization
r2c1: A common sight in central India – bright yellow mustard flowers against the backdrop of a blue, tribal house. Houses of the Gond and Baiga communities in the region tend to be painted blue as they believe that this colour drives away mosquitoes and insects. This photograph was taken on the outskirts of Kanha National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
r2c2: C, a Koli woman, prepares the ‘Bombay Duck’ fish, to be hung out to dry. Kolis are the original inhabitants of Mumbai city and most members of the community are engaged in fishing or fishing-related occupations.
r2c3: Phoolkali (in front) & Maya are two of the several elephants rescued by Wildlife SOS to date. Phoolkali is about 60 years old and used be a begging elephant while Maya, once a circus elephant, is about 42 years old. They are photographed here out for their daily evening walk at the Elephant Conservation & Care Centre, in Mathura, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
r2c4: Performers from the Yimchungru tribe gather outside their ‘morung’ (young men’s dormitory) at the Naga Heritage Village, in Kisama, Nagaland, during the 2017 Hornbill Festival.
r3c1: Nilesh Kushram, a talented young artist from the Gond tribe, seen here with one of his paintings. Gond paintings are extremely detailed and intricate, and they reflect the close connection the Gonds share with the forests they live in. Photographed at Shergarh at Kanha, a beautiful tented wildlife camp, located on the outskirts of Kanha National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India.
r3c2: The badly damaged muzzle of a former ‘dancing bear’, photographed at the Agra Bear Rescue Facility, one of four Wildlife SOS bear centres across India. Under the watchful care of the Wildlife SOS team, the muzzle has healed but the disfigurement remains. Wildlife SOS rescued over 620 dancing bears from the streets of India, thus ending the barbaric 400-year old ‘dancing bear’ practice in the country, in 2009.
r3c3: Paddy fields till the eye can see in Dehene village in Maharashtra state, western India. The village lies a mere 120kms on the outskirts of Mumbai city. This rural experience was organised by Grassroutes, a Mumbai-based social enterprise and responsible travel company.
r3c4: PS, a Bodo woman, catches fish in a rivulet, in Bodoland, Assam. She is using a traditional, conical-shaped basket known as ‘jakhoi’ to scoop-up fish from the water, and a gourd-shaped vessel known as ‘khaloi’ (tied to the waist), to store the freshly-caught fish. Both items are made by intricately weaving together thin strips of bamboo.
r4c1: Jute fibres hung out to dry in Bodoland, Assam. The state is one of the largest jute producing state in India, contributing to the country’s position as the top jute producer in the world.
r4c2: SB, a Bodo woman weaves at the ant centre in Bodoland, Assam. Weaving is a traditional skill in this part of the world, passed on from mother to daughter. The loom used is a pedal loom. Read more about the weavers of Assam here.
r4c3: A split-second sighting of a tigress known as ‘Choti Mada’ (meaning small female) at Kanha National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India. The tiger is the national animal of India and the focus of global conservation programs. Safari organized by Shergarh at Kanha
r4c4: The ancient Indo-Arabic artform of mehendi, wherein a person’s body is decorated with intricate designs, using a paste made from dried, powdered henna leaves