Wagah Border Ceremony

The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan is a daily event attracting crowds of locals and tourists alike. It is a well oiled affair and when following a few basic instructions if very easy to attend.

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From the Indian side, once you reached to the last parking before the border you will have to walk 1 or 2 Km before getting to the venue. You need to carry your passport if you are a foreigner, which will bring you to a separate seating area (more later)

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You cannot carry much apart from cameras and wallet. No bags are allowed, I read that bringing in water is not allowed, but you can buy some inside.

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I carried 2 Leica M bodies with lenses and the 90mm in my pocket, my passport, cell phone and wallet without problem.Note that cell phones are not working in the area.

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The venue looks like a stadium with the actual border being at the center. The crowd can go as high as 2000 people from the Indian side.

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The event starts at 5h30pm and last 30 minutes. You need to arrive well in advance ( we were there by 4h30pm ) to secure a seating;  I was told that some people were sent back on the day we were there.

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The ceremony is a show of rivalry and cooperation between the two countries, It starts with preliminaries of Bollywood style music played full blast, and displays of flags.

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After a moment the guards will enter the arena and do their show.

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The crucial bit is the seating, the area reserved for foreign passport holders in quite close to the border and on the top of the seats, this has the advantage of giving us some shade (the sun sets in the Pakistani side and it became very hot at some point), but the view of the Pakistan side is quite limited.

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Also you are quite far ways form the show; the pictures here are done with the 90mm Elmarit on the M262, they give a good description of the event but are not great. Also keep in mind the light it not great and goes down, I needed higher ISO (400, then 640 then 1000) and also the place is very dusty.

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Can you do better? Well yes: hang around until the top sits are full so you can sit lower and have a closer / better view. But the border guards are trying hard to make you sit at the right place.

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At the end of the show it is possible to go close to the border and have a shot or two with some Indian guards.

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I am not a great fan of demonstrations of national pride, but this was really fun. I was a bit concerned by the security aspect, being so close to the border, but it did some seem to bother the many foreigners that were present and I it did not feel unsafe there.

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All shots done with Leica M262, Elmarit 90mmF2.8

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Wagah Border Ceremony

Guru Ka Langar – The Community Kitchen at Amritsar Golden temple

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In the Golden Temple community kitchen an average 75,000 devotees or tourists take langar daily; but the number becomes almost double on special occasions.
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On average 100 Quintal Wheat Flour, 25 Quintal Cereals, 10 Quintal Rice, 5000 Ltr Milk, 10 Quintal Sugar, 5 Quintal Pure Ghee is used a day. Nearly 100 LPG Gas Cylinders are used to prepare the meals. 100’s of employees and devotees render their services to the kitchen.
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Everyone is welcome to share the Langar; no one is turned away. Each week a family or several families volunteer to provide and prepare the Langar.
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All the preparation, the cooking and the washing-up is done by volunteers and or by voluntary helpers (Sewadars).
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The community kitchen in the temple shows the Sikh ideal of charity : A Sikh is under a religious obligation to contribute one-tenth of his earnings for the welfare of the community.
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He must also contribute the service of his hands whenever he can, service rendered in a langar being the most meritorious.L1009590
It has ensured the participation of women and children in a task of service for mankind. Women play an important role in the preparation of meals, and the children help in serving food.
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The Community Kitchens gives a great demonstration of equality between sexes and social backgrounds.
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I’ll watch over the washing up

All shots with Leica M262 + Summicron 28 or 50. I used a higher ISO for those, the light being a bit random. People in the kitchen are very photo friendly; as long as you are not in anybody’s way you can take your time. But be careful you may be dragged into making some chapatis.

 

Guru Ka Langar – The Community Kitchen at Amritsar Golden temple

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE – AMRITSAR

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, known as Sri Harmandir Sahib,  is the holly place for the Sikh faith.

L1009510 The entrance is a short walking distance from the street, but on the Sunday we visited the traffic was so bad we had to envoy a nice stroll through the streets of the city. A bit esplanade sits in from of the temple (above) where many pilgrims sleep at night. The entrance is North gate called also the clock tower.

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After having left your shoes at the counter, covered your head and washed you hands and feet you can step trough the gate and access the path around the Sarovar (the holly pool of immortal nectar) and have a view at the golden temple, the sanctum-sanctorum.

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Benevolent and photo friendly guards are posted around the pool.

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Sunday may not be the best bet to visit as you see above we were not alone.

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In various stations devotees envoy a ritual bath, note that there are special enclosed sections for women. Sikh are so open minded that we were told nobody would be offended if a non Sikh  would have a dip.

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An important part of the Sikh temples is the kitchen offering food to every visitor, school kids above were waiting to get their meal.

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Inside the Akal Takhat

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A Sikh man reading the Holly book in a small chapel around the pool.

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Volunteers working at the cleaning of the holly pool.

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Sikh apprentice meditating, yes you can become a Sikh (Elmarit 90F2.8). There can be many reasons, like getting married to a Sikh for instance.

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Good bye.

Leica M262, Summicron 28 and 50 and Elmarit 90

THE GOLDEN TEMPLE – AMRITSAR

Evening Ceremony at the Golden Temple

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Sri Harmandir Sahib

Every night a ceremony is held in the Golden Temple in Amritsar (also known as Sri Harmandir Sahib), the holiest Sikh temple.

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It is called “sukhasan“, it consists in bringing back the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of the Sikh, from the Sanctum (golden pavilion) to its resting place (Akal Takht).

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Priest and devotees line the way between the two places and watch the palanquin being brought from the resting place to the pavilion and the Guru Granth Sahib return.

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It starts at 9h45 and last 30 minutes; the place is really packed and it is very difficult to have a clear view of what is going on.

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Communal Kitchen outside the temple

On the way back a blue Hindu temple (“Saturday temple”) can be found, this small place sees many devotees, Sikh and Hindu alike.

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One of the temple priests (Left) and our guide.

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Man selling offerings for Krishna

The area around the Golden Temple is very lively at night, with a lot of food stalls and people walking around.

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(All shots Leica M262 and Summicron 28 or 50)

I will make a summary pape about our travel in Punjab; more information on Sikhism can be found on http://www.sikhiwiki.org/

 

Evening Ceremony at the Golden Temple

Mullik Ghat Flower Market – Calcutta

Situated at the southeast end of Howrah Bridge, between the Ganges and the railway, the flower market is a fascinatingly colorful attraction.

This is a wholesale market, not one where you are supposed to buy flowers as a tourist.

The morning we were there the place was reasonably busy, it gets a bit cramped in the covered area, but not to the point of being unbearable (although I can imagine this can be the case from time to time).

 

There are plenty of nice spots inside or outside where you can stay without being too much on the way and take pictures. This is a business place, but I think people are ok to have their photo taken, maybe do not shoot at money exchanges.

 

On the way from the avenue to the market itself, you can see the makeshift shacks where many workers live in, but also some small workshops (workshacks maybe?) where people are mending cyclecarts, or making wooden boxes to transport the flowers.


This is the kingdom of marigold.

Mullik Ghat Flower Market – Calcutta

Calcutta – The potters colony

The first stop of our fourth trip to India was Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is called now.

At first I was very excited to go to India at the period of Diwali the festival of lights, but it turned out that is is more a private event celebrated at home than something you can experience in the street. True, the cities were all lighted-up and people were busy shopping for lights and decorations for their homes. Actually, that week was just after the Durga puja which is a popular celebration in West Bengal, but also the week of Kali Puja which is another big celebration in the area. And particularly in Calcutta.

If we were first struck on the night of our arrival by the number of people sleeping in the street, we were also very surprised to see number of bamboo structures being erected across the city. This, were we told, was for the construction of temporary temples for the upcoming Kali puja.

The next day one of the highlights of our tour was the “potters colony” or Kumartuli. I did not do much research before and was afraid to be inflicted one of the pseudo artisanal attractions you see from time to time. It turned out that the potters colony is the place where these craftsmen are building statues of deities (or idols as our guide reffer to them) for the various celebrations of the hindu year. That week all the colony was busy making statues of Kali for the upcoming festival.


The highly decorated statues present Kali, with a necklace of severed demons heads that she defeated but also stepping on her husband Shiva, she generally has her tongue sticking out. The explanation we were given can also be found on wikipedia:

Once Kali had destroyed all the demons in battle, she began a terrific dance out of the sheer joy of victory. All the worlds began to tremble and sway under the impact of her dance. So, at the request of all the Gods, Shiva himself asked her to desist from this behavior. However, she was too intoxicated to listen. Hence, Shiva lay like a corpse among the slain demons in order to absorb the shock of the dance into himself. When Kali eventually stepped upon Shiva, she realized she was trampling and hurting her husband and bit her tongue in shame.

It is difficult to imagine that so many statues will found someone to buy them; but they actually do. Strolling through the colony you can see statues of various shapes, colors and sizes; but all describing the same scene. You will see idols at various stages of their completion, from gross straw shapes, to fully finished ones. Most of the statues will have their head covered if they are not finished. Artists are painting the fine details of eyes or decorations, some even using spray paint for shades.

All pictures with Nikon D700 + Nikkor 17-35F2.8D, I use a polarizing filter mostly all the on this lens.

Calcutta – The potters colony

The Agfa Isolette III in India

Nearly one month since the last post, unbelievable. And I have since shot some new film (and some more classic ones), been to India and back, I am so far behind on by processing and posting that it is difficult to know where to start. So maybe let’s start by the end: I have collected this week the two rolls I shot in India over the last holidays.

I brought with me the Agfa Isolette III that came back from repair in September; the camera is small and shoot 120 film. I just did two films in 10 days (actually only 20 shots); India is so overwhelming it is difficult to take the eye from the DSLR.

A quick word on the trip, but I will do a full summary later: we traveled from Calcuta to Benares (Varanasi) via Patna, Nalanda and Bodhgaya. These are amazing places, really worth the visit.

Nice encounter on the Ghats of Benares last week, two young film photographers from New Delhi, shooting with Olympus film cameras.


Buddhist monk outside the Mahabodhi Temple – Bodhgaya – India
The monk may be from Sri Lanka or Thailand from the color of his robes.
This holy place of Buddhism is full of monks and pilgrims meditating and a few tourists like us. Ask with a smile and they are all photo friendly.


Guy repairing his boat on the ghats of the Ganges in Varanasi.

Holy cow; there are really plenty of them in Varanasi, beware where you step.


Evening prayer to the Ganges river


Sahu at work; they are plenty in Varanasi as well, but less than I expected, they seems to be far more in Pashupatinath in Nepal.

Black and white pictures with Kodak Tri-x 400ISO, shots at 360 with a yellow filter.

Color pictures with Kodak Portra NC 400ISO, shots at 360 unfortunately still with a yellow filter, but the scanner corrected the colours nearly automatically.

All scanned with Epson V500, corrected in Lightroom.

The Agfa Isolette III in India