The annual Kodungallur Bharani festival is known for the raucous and unrestrained devotional practices of its participants. Thousands of devotees chant sexually explicit songs to the rythmic beat of short wooden sticks, while Oracles of the Goddess Kali, called ‘Vellicapads’ (illuminators) beat their foreheads with sickle-tipped swords to make offerings of blood and to reveal the Goddess‘ wishes through trance.
Red rivulets stream down the Oracles’ faces, as devotees throw tumeric, peppercorns and live chickens to literally ‘trash’ the temple and its grounds. Although some Hindus find these rituals reprehensible, the devotees believe their celebration of Kali’s ‘sakti’ (power) and their expression of raw, unrepressed emotions serve to please the Goddess.
check out my vimeo video under “projects” on the left.
An alley in the middle of Kolkata’s Chinatown, a neighborhood which was once dominated by more than 500 tanneries. The chrome used in the tanning process not only turns the leather a blue color, but it also pollutes the water and the air, leaving its mark on walls and doors and walkways. A 2002 Supreme Court Order aimed at controlling pollution led to the relocation of more than 250 of the tanneries that were previously located here.
Bells, like the prayer flags, prayer wheels and mani stones, are used by the tibetan buddhists to spread their prayers of compassion, wisdom and peace. It is believed that when the wind blows and the bells ring, the sound of the bells spread the prayers into all pervading space for the benefit of all. ..wish I could stay here a little longer than planned.
Kathakali is a form of highly stylised classical Indian dance-drama that blends literature, music, painting, acting and dance. It originated in the country’s southern state of Kerala during the 16th century AD, approximately between 1555 and 1605.
There is no dialogue in Kathakali. Instead, communication among the characters, and to the audience, is through an intricate language of hand gestures, combined with facial expression and body movements.
The make-up, called Chutty, is an art form in itself. The colourful faces are the results of hours of painstaking handiwork by expert artists. The basic materials used for the make up are very crude items like raw amorphous Sulphur, Indigo, Rice paste, Lime, Coconut oil etc. It can take up to 6 hours to prepare a performer’s make-up.
Kushti, or Pehlwani, is an ancient form of wrestling begun in the Mughal era, dating back to the sixteenth century. Although it once held great importance in Indian societies, its popularity has dwindled over the years. So I think we were all surprised when we happened upon this small group of Kushti wrestlers engaged in their daily practice on an akhara (wrestling area) tucked in a back corner of the Mulik Ghat under a neem tree along the Hooghly river.
“Toda, tab bhi bola – tabla” -a Hindi pun reflects a legend which credits the 13th century poet Amir Khusrau as the inventor of the “tabla” (Indian drum) after he split the single south Indian ‘mrudangam’ drum into two.
This drum maker has quite the reputation in his neighborhood. I was struck by his focus and his very lean, muscular arms.
I spied a bare skinned little boy walk around the corner and quickly reached for my camera. Moments earlier I had been trying to record some music coming from the speakers on the walls of this building. My companion later told me that I had just recorded music from a ‘pay for toilet’ place. And that’s apparently where the little fellow is heading and where the bigger one is coming from.
I found an old, abandoned building today so my homey girl, I’m calling her “Yoyo Jill-Z” these days, agreed to come watch my back while I climbed through the gates and up a dark stairwell. Actually, I made her go first – hey, I’m no fool! When we got upstairs, we found a bright red heart…and a few other things!