In the start of 2014, I decided to take a year off from work and travel to India. Though born in India, I had never travelled much within the country. This sabbatical was going to be the perfect opportunity to see and experience this country like never before. Through my travel I was hoping to experience and understand the rich culture, tradition and heritage of India. This project “Festivals of India” is a result of those travels. Through my documentary style, I wanted to tell stories of the people, place and the culture of India. Festivals tell a lot about a culture and India has an abundance of that.
My travels took me from the remote parts of India to the big metropolitan cities. Some traditions were native to a place while others were celebrated throughout the country. During my travels I came across many surprises like witnessing one of the biggest Hindu festival of “Ganesh Chaturthi” being celebrated by a Muslim majority village in central India. Being invited to be part of the breaking of the fast at “Karva Chauth” in northern India, a festival celebrated by married Hindu women fasting from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity for their husbands. During “Durga Puja” festival in Kolkata there was a similar tradition of wishing longevity by Bengali women for their husbands but with a different ritual. Here married Bengali women beautifully dressed in traditional attire smeared Vermilion on the feet of the Goddess Durga and then applied it on each other’s forehead. In Surat, Gujarat I came across thousands of kites flying, celebrating the festival of Uttarayan. This festival marks the most important harvest day in Gujarat when winter ends and summer begin.
This project has helped me experience and understand Indian culture and tradition better. There are still places I have not explored and this project is far from over. I do plan to continue to document and expand my understanding and through my photographs help others experience the festivals and ultimately the soul of India. - Uday Khambadkone, photographer
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.