The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

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The alms ceremony in Luang Prabang is a unique ritual that makes the charm of this small city. It is a also a well know one and pictures of the monks lining the streets of Luang Prabang at 5am are famous worldwide. I could not attend it the first time I was there 10 years ago, but I made sure to see it this time.

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The little lady above lives on the other side of the street, where I am shooting from. The people on her right on the first picture are tourists (Korean, Thai, Chinese?) renting a stool, and buying alms from the merchants. So this has become a real touristic attraction, many stools are ready for Buddhist tourists or anybody who want to participate, and the non participating are legion.

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I try to keep a safe distance and show respects for the monks but as usual this is not the case for everybody. This is a bit frustrating, but I generally prefer to miss a shot than to fight or be a nuisance. All of this spoils a bit the ceremony for me, but it can be that I am just a tad difficult.

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I may stand corrected but what make it unique is the fact that monks from the 7 or so monasteries in town go out in the street to collect alms in procession, rather that visiting houses of people who will donate food.

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If you are out in the street at 5h30 you can assist roughly to one hour of procession, and i f you follow the rules you can approach the monks up to 3 meters.

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We were sitting on the pavement of the main street and it is quite busy. I think there may be many “spots”, like places  where the procession turns who may offer better photo opportunities, same from the exits of the monasteries of the path along the river.

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Outside of the center you will see random people waiting for monks from place to place, which surely would enable a closer encounter with this local customs.

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Regardless of the crowd it is a great experience.

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We enjoyed very much sitting opposite the lady-from-across-the-street as we regarded her devotion more authentic. But this is quite subjective and I don’t want to be judgmental.

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Flash photography is forbidden or course, so high end DSLR will probably have the upper hand here.

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For this lady renting stools and selling alms this is time to ring the end of the show.

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Color shots taken on Leica M262 with 50mm F2 Summicron v5, Black and white taken with Leica M6 classic and Summicron 28mm F2 Asph on Ultrafine Xtreme 400ISO film.

 

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The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

CHANDIGARH – THE CAPITOL COMPLEX

 

The Open Hand Monument

So here we are on the last day of our trip, on the road to visit the Capitol Complex; the heart of Chandigarh, designed (partially) by Le Corbusier in the late 1950’s. An ode to modernist architecture that we have been longing to visit for years.

Palace of Assembly

Well not quite; aside from the bad planning (in my own opinion) of our travel agent, visiting Chandigarh is a bit more complicated than we thought. So apart from the 3 sites cited in my last post, there is nothing organised to visit the habitations buildings and finally you have to go through a guided tour to visit the Capitol Complex.

The Shadow Tower

This is not quite all : the two main buildings on the Capitol, the High court and the Assembly are in use (why should they not be after all?). So you cannot enter the High Court and you are lucky (we were) to enter the Assembly ( but no photos inside).

Punjab and Haryana High Court or palace of Justice

Add bye the time the guide assembled the small crowd of tourists we started our visit by mid morning, time was starting to be short and the light was quite bad for taking pictures.

As you can see above the high court is in use with layers in their work outfits.

Palace of assembly

In the opposite site of the plaza from the Hight court, the Palace of Assembly has a better lighting. It is overseeing a large pond and offers a spectacular view.


The holes in the front walls give nice perspectives and see through views.

Patterns on the assembly walls, reminding that man is the scale of the construction.

Getting out of the Assembly House the inevitable Ambassador car, now a civil servant official car, which used to be common taxis.

Mister Mohan

Our visit was accompanied by Mister Mohan, from the tourist Police who turned out to be a friendly person.

A few more things:

  • For the habitations buildings there are no restrictions to go and visit them, ask inhabitants,… we met some passionate french people who were spending a full week there. But Chandigarh is a big city so you better plan for what you want to see.
  • You can “pass by” on a road at the back of the Open Hand monument, in  a certain distance, without getting into a tour and then be able to take picture at better moments (I did not)
  • The tour of the Capitol Complex is a bit rushed through, you are not welcome to wander around or take too long with your photography nonsense,
  • You do not see on the pictures, the parking lots, the vans, the 20 Spanish tourists of our tour, the barriers,…
  • How did I manage to take so poor pictures of a site I longed to visit for decades? It shows (if needed) that some skills need working on.
  • Camera geekerry : color shots Leica M262, black and while Leica M6, Summicron 28 and Summicron 50
CHANDIGARH – THE CAPITOL COMPLEX

On the road from Patiala to Chandigarh

Patiala looks to be a very interesting place, but we had little time to hang around. We try to visit the two palaces but both were under renovation and although we were allowed to the grounds in both (many thanks to our guide), I was denied using my camera. The first palace was a residence for the maharajah and his many spouses; the buildings we could see are set around a very large pond. It is located in a residential area on the town outskirts.

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This may have been some sort of Natural Sciences museum
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Under construction
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The “pond” is what separate the girls here to the building in the background.

 

The second palace, Qila Mubarak, is located in the heart if the city, it is normally hosting a museum which was closed at the time of our visit (Oct 2017) and the building also under renovation. This is an incredibly big compound to be located in a city center. There is a fort behind the main buildings and more buildings behind the fort. No pictures available unfortunately.

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We then start our drive to Chandigarh through the busy city streets and then on the very good roads off Punjab. Chandigarh is only 70 km away, but with a few stops, we got there in about 4 hours.

The main stop was in Sirhind-Fategarh, the Gurdwara Fatehgarh Sahib there is famous as it is the place where younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh, who were bricked-up alive in 1704 by Wazir Khan and a place to commemorate the memory of the brave Sikhs who were killed while fighting with Mughal forces.

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Gurudwara Bhora Sahib, the wall where the younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh were bricked-up alive

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Outside the Gurdwara itself is a  shop for religious artifacts where I finally decided to satisfy my long lasting envy to buy a  Kara (a Sikh bangle). After a long debate we decided to by one each (ok my wife wanted two) and to our great surprise the shop keeper refused us to pay for them and offered them as presents. Another sign of the great Sikh hospitality and friendliness.

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The Gurdwara shop keepers 

Next to the main Gurdwara is another one, where we met the guy in charge (below). Very happy to talk about his religion; probably on of the first guys we could exchange in English.

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Not far from this site is a Mosque, which is supposed to be linked to friendly Muslim people at the time of the war with the mughals. The complex is very nice and spacious. Not all places are allowed for women to visit and photography is a bit more limited than in the Gurdwaras.

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The basement of the main building above contains the tombs of some saints where people come to make offerings.

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Back on the road again, our guide stopped us by one of the many places where a few men where boiling some sugar cane to make some solid sugar.

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Pressing the cane to extract the sugar

We tasted the sweets and pack-up after a little while and finally made it to Chandigarh.

All shots Leica M262+Summicron 28 or 50

B&W shots Leica M6+Summicron 50

 

On the road from Patiala to Chandigarh

Kali Mata Mandir – Pathiala

Quite a different athmosphere from GURDWARA DUKH NIWARAN SAHIB when crossing the city we came upon the “Kali Mata Mandir” the “Black mother temple”.

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This beautiful temple is said to be very popular and we preferred to visit it in daytime, before the crowd.

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Devotees are already coming to offer they prayers and ask for the blessings of the black mother. With a bit of discussion with the priest I was allowed to take a couple of pictures of the Divine Mother Kali and the priests (The statue was brought back from Bengal in the 1900’s)

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The Kali shrine opens towards the outside of the compound; through it you enter a courtyard surrounding the temple below.

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At the back of Kali shrine is another shrine of what I believe being the goddess Jyoti; the Hindu goddess of light and the “Vel”. She is the daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and is closely associated with her brother Lord Murugan .

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People of the temple are collecting offerings for various causes. I gave some rupees I had left for one of them, although I am not sure what it is for.L1000275

I had none for the next ones which were a bit unhappy about the fact.

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The part if the temple below contains an older Shiva temple that opens once a year only, an old local gentleman told us he visited it only once in his life.L1000285

Finally we found  a group playing music and singing in the temple hall; I cannot tell if they were playing for the gods or rehearsing for later ceremony, but they seemed to be very please of our short attendance.

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You can visit http://maakalidevimandirpatiala.com/ for more information

 

Outside the temple a rickshaw rider waits for customers

All shots Leica M262 with Summicron 50 or 28; Rickshaw rider is Leica M6, Cron 28mm and Kodak TMY400

Kali Mata Mandir – Pathiala

Gurdwara dukh Niwaran Sahib – Patiala

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The Gurdwara dukh Niwaran Sahib is situated in the north part of the city of Patiala in Punjab, 80 km from Chandigarh.

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It  is the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur came to rid the by then village of a serious and mysterious sickness which had been their bane for a long time. The place where Guru Tegh Bahadur had sat under a banyan tree by the side of a pond came to be known as Dukh Nivaran (meaning eradicator of suffering). Devotees have faith in the healing qualities of water in the sarovar (pond) attached to the shrine.

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We were very lucky when arriving there late afternoon, as the Gurdwara was preparing for a celebration the next day. Plenty of people where gathering already some very colorful as the young Sikh above. Or the older gentlemen in the following pictures.L1000228

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The gentlemen on the right was here with his family and used to live in what is now Pakistan before India’s partition in 1948.

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I always enjoy seeing people working; here partaking in the cleaning and preparation of the next day ceremony.

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We skipped visiting the kitchen this time.

All shots above Leica M262+Summicron 28/50

Below are some film shots, Leica M6, the other summicron, and Kodak TMY 400

Gurdwara dukh Niwaran Sahib – Patiala

Phool Cinema Hall – Patiala – India

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The Phul or Phool cinema is a theater in Patiala in Punjab.
It is an impressive Art Deco building erected in a rather large compound in a rather busy traffic junction in the city.

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I first spot it from the car when we passed by, and as we were having some samosas on the other side of the road I could not resist to cross the junction for a closer look.

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India the (other) land of cinema! Our guide discussed with a man that looks to be the guardian or operator or both of the cinema and he happily showed us around. The art deco fixtures are beautiful. Not only could we see the entrance, but also the upstairs foyer and the projection room.

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The old projectors are now at rest replaced by a digital device. We could even peep into the room where Judwaa 2 was showing.

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The highlight of the visit was when our host (below) showed us to the top of the building.

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Thank you very much sir for the visit.

All shots in very poor light with Leica M262 and Summicron 50mm. I did not wand to loose time changing lens, but the the view of the roof top with the moon and the projectors view would have benefit from a wider lens. For the poor light, I have to consider if a faster would help. Maybe a 35Lux sometime?

I am just printing the portrait above and posting it to the cinema today.

Phool Cinema Hall – Patiala – India

Gurdwara Ber Sahib

Gurdwara Ber Sahib is situated in the Sultanpur lodhi town of Kapurthala Distt.

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It is situated on the bank of the rivulet Kali Bein, half a kilometre to the west of the old town; Guru Nanak performed his morning ablutions in the Bein and then sat under a Ber (Zizyphus jujuba) tree to meditate.

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Guru Ji meditated at this tree daily for 14 years, nine months and 13 days. While Bathing here one day in Bein River Guru Sahib disappeared and was missing and returned after three days. Upon returning enlightned Guru began his life long mission of preaching Sikhism. (http://www.sikhiwiki.org)

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I was most impressed by the pond, the contrast of its green color and the white stones around under the harsh midday sun. The black fish adding to the scenery, but I am afraid I did not manage to capture it properly.

As in every Gurdwara, we had to visit the langar hall, which was quite empty at that time. But being one of the most sacred place for Sikh it is quite big and can host quite a crowd.

The tea master

The man poured us some massala tea with the device below; which is quite a clever invention to serve the usual crowd.

The device

As an eminent foreign guest after having our tea we were hushed into the kitchen, where a group of volunteers were making chapatis.

A beautiful light was pouring from the windows.

We had to decline the invitation to make chapatis ourselves.

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Back in the Langar hall.

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Around the pool a enclosed bathing areas for women only.

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The living quarters.

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Outside the Gurwara, volunteers shining the shoes you have left before entering the temple.

Gurdwara Ber Sahib