Mahakumbh: Photographs by Raghu Rai
108 days, 11 hours and 7 minutes.
Storyltd is pleased to present Raghu Rai’s collection of photographs shot on the theme of “Mahakumbh”.
Nothing could have kept Raghu Rai away from this incredible pilgrimage to Allahabad. He has long been fascinated by the excesses of this popular Indian festival. The origin of this tradition could be an ancient celebration of the planting season, during which jars filled with grains were soaked in the waters of the holy rivers and germinated in a fertility ritual. The jar symbolizes the Mother Goddess, the womb of the world, and rivers are also considered as sources of life in the Indian world.
The Kumbh at Prayag is simply a multitudinous congregation of people belonging to many faiths in general and Hindus in particular. It is a massive visual representation of Hinduistic religiosity in its most intensive and eloquent tradition. Everything is unique and rare with Kumbh. Its makeshift shelters in lakhs, its area and dimension, millions and millions of dwellers, its religious discourses, acts and philosophies based on hundreds of faiths. Thousands of holy and not so holy Nagas, non invitational invitation, and its unique technology- all this constitutes a rare manifestation of Divinity in Matter and Mind.
Celebrated every 12 years, the Maha Kumbh Mela, “great festival of the jar” attracts masses of Hindu devotees from across the country. According to Hindu scriptures, gods and demons fought for a jar containing the nectar of immortality, and in this heavenly battle, a drop of the precious substance fell on several cities, among them Allahabad. In this holy city, dipping at the Sangam, confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna River and the legendary Saraswati River, washes the believer’s sins and frees the soul from the cycle of reincarnation.
Raghu Rai born and brought up in India, for him India is his whole world. Probably the only photographer who prefers to photograph his homeland and people as he feels it is his responsibility and a challenge to go on and explore the ethos and power of an ancient civilization of his own country than dabble in all kinds of travel abroad. This has, probably, given him and his work an edge over anybody photographing India.
He believes ‘Over the centuries’, so much has melded into India, that it’s not really one country, it’s not one culture. It is crowded with crosscurrents of many religions, beliefs, cultures and their practices that may appear incongruous. But India keeps alive the inner spirit of her own civilization with all its contradictions. Here, several centuries have learnt to live side by side at the same time. And a good photograph is lasting witness to that as photo history of our times. Being a multi-lingual, multi- cultured and multi- religious society, the images must speak these complexities through a multi- layered experience.
See also: Raghu Rai Photography: Music Maestros