SPITI : A Travel Documentary Film

See Spiti via Travel Photographer’s perspective. This is the travel documentary film shot during a period of 12 Days which gives an overview of Spiti Valley, it’s culture, food and people. Detailed video covers the interesting stories such as First Voter Of India, Tibetan Food, Monasteries and Monks, Covering of Mars and Milkyway Galaxy, Iconic Chacha Chachi Dhaba, Saving a birds life etc..

This movie was entirely shot on mobile phones (Motorola MotoG4 & OnePlus) and stills are from Nikon D810. © Jai Thakur I http://www.jaithakur.in

 

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Nepal Diaries: A week is not enough

Being a native of Bagdogra, fondly known as the replica of secular India, I have lots of Nepali friends and have the advantage of knowing their language. So, when my friends asked me to plan a trip to Nepal, I felt that it will be easier for me to communicate in a foreign land. We zeroed down to three places – Kathmandu, Pokhra and Bandipur, all thanks to Instagram.

01_Girl welcoming us in Bhaktapur

It was April 14, 2017 around 10:30 PM when we landed in Kathmandu. After filling the demarcation form we booked 2 taxis and headed towards our hotel in Thamel. The moment we reached Thamel, our driver told us that it was Nepali New Year (2074) because of which the area was crowded and we had to walk beyond that point. It was indeed an experience in itself, loud music, young crowd, tourists from different countries and the decorated lanes. Amidst of all these we finally reached to our hotel around 11:00 PM where the hotel owners denied our booking and transferred us to other hotel. I think that they had given our rooms to young couples celebrating New Year in nearby discotheques. We were 5 people and all were literally frustrated with this kind of behaviour towards us and that too so late in the night. One of us suggested, let’s keep our bags and go out to enjoy this madness.  Much to our delight local snacks like momos, chicken fry, chops were cheap and delicious. Post this we forced ourselves into the most crowded lane and enjoyed some sumptuous bakery stuff. After an hour so we went back to our hotel and rested.

Next morning when we opened our windows, much to our surprise, we saw a different Nepal from the last night. Surrounding buildings (mostly hotels) were painted yellow with colourful banners hanging in the street. The refined morning light was a bliss, promising beautiful days ahead. Though the hotel lane was narrow and congested, it still looked beautiful in the morning light – photographer’s eye you know… ;). After breakfast we went to explore the suburbs of Kathmandu specially Bhaktapur. On our way we stopped at Thamel market to buy a local simcard.

Bhaktapur is an ancient Newa city in the east corner of Kathmandu Valley. Strangely we noticed that hardly there were any people in the market. After talking to few locals we came to know they all went to witness Sindoor Jatra in a small village called Thimi which comes under municipality of Bhaktapur District. If you have witnessed or heard of Sunburn parties or Holi of Brajbhoomi, I can assure you that the festival of Sindoor Jatra is mother of all those events. Madness all around with locals singing songs on the beats of ancients musical instruments, dancing, enjoying their respective bottles of beer and making merry. I spoke in Nepali to one of the shopkeepers and he allowed us to stand at the roof of his shop from where we could see and click photographs. The moment this big procession crossed us, I said, “Thank you God for making me witness this madness”. I was shooting with both hands, with camera in right hand and recording this entire event using cellphone from left hand. The entire event lasted for an hour, guess we missed the initial celebrations. Post this, we decided to explore the inner part of that village. While clicking photographs of the event, the ladies and the children popping out of their beautifully designed windows touched me the most. I decided that from now onwards I was going to shoot only windows and doors and developed a story out of it. The beauty of this 200 years old village cannot be defined in words, the people, their house and the doors- windows engraved with their rich culture literally blew my mind.

 

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Next day, we rested, had some good time exploring local shops, and ate local food including momos, their staple food “Thakali Thali read spicy Nepali Thali)”. I almost ate 20 times the same food, it was so awesome, specially the pickles, saag, chutney and the non-veg to go along. In the same evening we went to Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple and the mighty The Durbar Square of Patan (UNESCO World Heritage sites).

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Four days passed away in no time, and then it was time for us to explore Pokhra. We booked bus from Thamel to Pokhra with Wi-Fi in the bus. The only thing did not went in our favor was the bad cloudy weather throughout our journey. You can understand our mental state as a photographer. Keeping our hopes high for the good sunny day, we reached Pokhra in the evening after 8 hours of polluted and picturesque journey, all thanks to construction work going on throughout the way.

After reaching to Pokhra the very first thing we did was to order food and tea and guess what I ordered myself it was ‘Nepali Thali’ again, obsessed you know ;). We spent rest of our evening seating idle at the bank of heavenly Fewa Lake, still no view of snow cladded Annapurna Range courtesy to bad weather. There is so much to share about the inner feelings but to summarize, we all were not talking to each other at all and was lost in the scenic beauty of Fewa Lake. You can say it’s a bigger version of Goa, only difference was beer selling hawkers everywhere. In the night, along with my wife I went on a romantic dinner at a beautiful restaurant which had a live singing band. We even surprised one of our elderly friend thereby celebrating his birthday at mid of the night. It was indeed sweeter way to end the day.

Next day, we explored  Bandipur which is around 50 odd kilometers fromDSC_9350 Pokhra.  Bandipur is a hilltop settlement and a municipality in Tanahun District, (Gandaki Zone) of Nepal. Its architectural beauty just took our breath away. It felt like we were roaming in the lanes of some European nation. It was vibrant and lively village. So far I have photographed more than 500 people, however I personally found the locals here not friendly towards Indian tourist and at times they were very rude. We came back in the evening, explored the whole Pokhra market, tasted some sumptuous local cuisine, cakes, coffee and for memory clicked few photographs too.

All long wait of 6-7 days, we got a glimpse of Annapurna Range on our last day there as the Sun showed itself. Though this happiness did not last long as it vanished due to rain after few minutes of sighting. We headed back to Kathmandu, bought some souvenir for friends and family. And, with a heavy heart said ‘Sayonara’ to the land of Himalayas. While coming back, I promised myself that I will definitely comeback and that time there will be no hurry & worry of family and office, no social obligations and that will be the time, when I want myself to get lost into the Himalayas.

To buy prints visit my website http://www.jaithakur.in  Pictures (c) All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Lathmar Holi: Riot of colors and thoughts

Do you like colors or the festival of colors? If you just answered ‘obviously, who doesn’t like’ then let me inform you I am the person who doesn’t like either of these. Yes, since childhood unlike other kids, I never liked playing Holi. One of the reasons, I am recollect, is the fear of annual exams which eventually used to fall in the same month (thanks to Army School’s tight schedules). The only thing I still love about Holi is the homemade sumptuous food specially mutton curry and ‘pakodas’. Today, after so many years I still feel the same for the festival. The only difference now is, I attend this festival of colors to make beautiful memories. In last five years, this greed of visual storytelling landed me in Nandgaon.

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Merely 150kms from Delhi lies small village Nandgaon which comes under the district of Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. This place is popularly known as the birthplace of Lord Krishna and its world famous celebration of Lathmar Holi. Lathmar Holi is a centuries old practice that gives a free hand to women to beat up their men for a day amidst colorful and wild celebrations. Every year villagers of Barsana and Nandgaon celebrate Holi for a week beforehand. As per locals, the story of Lathmar Holi started when Krishna visited his beloved Radha on this day and teased her and her friends. Women got a little offended and decided to teach Krishna a lesson and chased him away by beating him with sticks. In order to recreate that event, every year men from Krishna’s village, Nandgaon, visit Radha’s hometown Barsana where they are greeted with abuses and sticks (lath). Hence this tradition came into picture. Same rituals gets repeated when men from Barsana visits Nandgaon.

During the Samaaj at Radha Rani temple will make you feel as if you are breathing in the ancient time of Krishna & Radha. Just to let you know, people gathered & singing ballads on Krishna & Radha are called Samaaj. To reach Radha Rani temple, one has to cross through narrow lanes of the village. Journey of reaching the temple during Holi is difficult for non-residents of Nandgaon especially for females. In the name of ritual, local boys specifically target female private parts with ‘Pichkari’ full of colors. This makes females very uncomfortable.

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I do not understand why in the name of culture, females are molested! If you are about to question my thoughts, please don’t bother. Here is one such incident which I witnessed happening to my wife during Holi in 2015. She was literally targeted by 6-7 local boys and they continuously poured water and color on her private parts and not letting her move towards the temple till the time one of our elderly friend intervened. Also, I had a verbal fight with one of them in front of the policeman who surprisingly asked me to back off and be silent as you this is his village not yours, “better you forget and leave.”

So, those questioning my story should better ask themselves – had your mother/wife/daughter/sister or any female friend been through this, how would have you reacted? My wife strongly feels that she had been insulted in front of the protector of law and is unable to speak up about the incident easily.

To conclude, I just want to say that Lathmar Holi is a celebration of love so let’s celebrate it that way. I have no intentions to hurt anyone’s sentiments with this write-up. It’s just a bitter self-experience yet a wonderful opportunity for photographers and others to indulge themselves in the rich culture and heritage of India.

To buy prints visit my website http://www.jaithakur.in  Pictures (c) All Rights Reserved

Thrilling Experience at the Rural Olympics, Kila Raipur

For so many years I have been reading about the famous Bullock Cart Race and, I was in a dilemma shall I cover it or not as Supreme Court of India was at time planning to ban the same. Finally, I got a chance to witness this thrilling sporting event in 2014 at 78th Rural Olympics.

Well! Kila Raipur Sports Festival, popularly known as the Rural Olympics, is held annually (February) in Kila Raipur (near Ludhiana), in Punjab, India.  It was in 1933 when, Philanthropist Inder Singh Grewal visualized an annual recreational meet where farmers from areas surrounding Kila Raipur could get together and test their corporal endurance. The three-day festival is witnessed by more than a million people, every year. So many eyeballs witness the numerous set of games like Bullock Cart race, Athletics, Tug of War, Horse Race, Tractor Race, Cycle race, Dog Race etc.

For me it was my first sporting event in terms of Photography. I was excited, thrilled and confused at what to do now. On the very first evening, I was a little apprehensive of the fact that I should be clicking the event from a safe distance or else try my luck at the finishing point. The locals were way too loud and the atmosphere was electrifying. As the blue hour approached I found myself at the finishing line of the race which is considered to be the most dangerous spot for the onlookers. But, I decided to frame that moment, despite of the loud surroundings, and luckily got few. But the feeling of achievement and to be at that spot was much higher than the fear of getting hurt.

Next morning, I reached the spot before it started. Had a chit chat with locals, took out time to taste some local delicacies like sugarcane drink and Pakoras. Organizers were cooperative enough to issue me a press card for the stadium. Since, I had press card so I was able to go near the participants on the ground. It was more of a dream for me that I am between these jockeys and beautifully dressed Nihangs.

To summarize, you will definitely feel the real spirit of Punjab and the Rural Olympics which often demonstrate the physical strength and valor of the Punjabi men and women.

The festival has become an international hit for its more unusual sports categories. Spectators travel from all over the world to the village of Kila Raipur to attend the games which attracts more than 4,000 sportsmen and women, and N number of travelers, photographers, and tourists.

If you are planning to visit that then remember this mantra – first BE SAFE and then Enjoy !

Where to Stay: You have lots of options for hotels in Ludhiyana within the range of 1000-3000+ (varies season to season). But get your bookings done to avoid last minute rush. I stayed in Pukhraj Hotel which was not good at all and so as the services

What to eat: Yummm! this is the real thing. All hotels and dhabas serves traditional and mouth watering traditional Punjabi dishes. You have the option of exploring local western food joints as well

What to see: Other then the sporting event you can visit local villages which are surrounded by mustard field and are treat to the eyes. Nihangs and their tradition attire, farms and tractors, Guru Dwaras and the overall culture of Punjab will take your heart away

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Kids performing the art
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Welcoming audiences on a bike
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Nihang demonstrating his riding skills
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Cycling event
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World famous Bullock Cart Race
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Kabaddi – The Traditional wrestling
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Horse Race
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School kid participating in Polo
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Stunt on two horses by Nihang

References: Punjab Tourism, Rural Olympics.net