There is a lot of text here.The subject matter may be a tad uncomfortable for some. You are cautioned, there will be rat pictures here.
Rats are not the most liked of mammals for a variety of reasons. They carry the ominous burden of spreading diseases and destroying food grains. The primary response to a rat is revulsion and its removal from the visual cortex.
Deshnoke is a small temple town, about 30 kilo meters away from Bikaner in Rajasthan, India. Dust eddies swirl around chase each other in the trail left behind by motor cars. Most places in Rajasthan are barren and dry with scant grass climbing over large hill sides. Stone boundaries demarcate ownerships. It is a semi desert landscape of utter beauty and fascination and at times terrifying proportions for some.
As you reach Deshnoke, a fort like outer facade of ochre pink stands squat and low with bastions in the corner and gun emplacement slots peeping down at you. India’s feudal structure demanded such forts from the marauding intentions of the neighbors as well as long term Muslim invaders from Central Asia. So there is a fort here too but I wonder if it was ever laid siege to. Not likely. It was built only around early 1900s by which time the British Empire was in total control of the Indian subcontinent.
The fortification served the purpose of hiding the temple from the prying eyes of humans and predators. Within lies the Karni Mata temple and about 15000-20000 rats that inhabit the courtyard. The rats are sacred. It is good manna if a rat scampers over your bare feet. If you manage to sight albino ones, then it is a sign of great fortune.
The temple was built in the early 1900 by the Maharaja of Bikaner who used to be a great patron and follower of Karni Mata. She was a wise and powerful lady with immense spiritual powers worshipped by the the lay populace as well as the Rajas in Rajasthan. We are talking of the late 14th and early 15th century here. She is supposed to have lived for about 150 years. Somewhere in her journeys, a young follower of hers lost his footstep near a water hole and drowned. The other followers beseech-ed Karni Mata to revive the young man. The Hindu God of Death who reaps the souls is called Yama and he comes astride a dark and sculpted buffalo with big horns.
Legend has it that Karni Devi would not allow Yama to perform his duties. A stalemate ensued. Ultimately a solution was arrived at. The God of Death passed on the soul of the dead boy into that of a rat and saved his face. From that day onward any member of the Charan community who died would be reborn as a rat and every time such a rat died, a Charan boy would be born. Re-Incarnation at full work here.
Rats from that day onward are revered by this community of Charans in this area of Rajasthan. The rats are the past as well as the future of the community of Charan male members. The white rats in the temple complex are supposed to be the direct descendents of the immediate family of Karni Mata whereas the others are the rest of the community members.
In the temple complex about 15000-20000 rats live. I have no idea when the census was done but these are just guesstimates over a period of time. Devotees come in daily and so do visitors who want to see this great terrifying spectacle of rats and the crazy worship. Most visitors must steel themselves to withstand the sight and the smell and get used to the idea of rats and their excrement on the floor. Now a days the visitors have the option to receive a cloth or a polythene sheath shaped like a shoe covering for the feet. It helps.
Writers and media people make frequent forays to present the exotic, arcane and bizarre to the world at large. One of the most terrifying experiences in the world as per the New York Post is a visit to the Rat Temple.
Not to be trapped in the listings game, I would say that the place leaves an indelible mark in one’s mind for the sheer concept of it. The experience can not be termed “terrifying” for sure. More unsettling and unnerving maybe.What about you ?
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Making a reverse list of the “worst” in photography. Think of photographers based in India or shooting in India.
So here goes
Next is a list of the “worst” photographers ;-)
Bicycling is a part of growing up.
An ode or maybe a celebration of motor skills and locomotion that gives you freedom to roam and explore the world around you. The scratches and bruises a life long reminder to the process.
I captured some still images of a sculpture showcased by the Lalit Kala Akademy, the premier keeper of sculpture, art and culture in India. This image is of a bicycle rider sculpted by Narendar Singh in 2008 is titled “My Journey ” and is about 145×12.5×120 cms made of Iron and is painted in green strips of metal with scant flowers on the mud guards. That touch of flowers screamed a watered down “euphoria” of a David Gerstein creation. This metal sculpture by and Indian sculptor is a delight to look at and conveys the sense of freedom and motion that is the essence of what a bicycle represents. Job well done Mr Sculptor.
Photography of boats and other sea vessels.
This is a single insertion of an image compared to the earlier entries which always had 6-10 photos, more like a photo essay format.
Change is the spice of life, so sail on.
This was shot from a moving boat, a difficult thing to accomplish on a day when the lighting was abjectly poor.
The earlier post on Boats, coracles and sea vessels is here —
This post is not about Redbull Racing. No It is not that I do not like Vettel. I positively endorse his driving style and love his performances till date. If things be what they are, he may still win the 2012 F1 championship. If you think F1 racing is extreme or tough and exciting or for that matter snowboarding, skiing down the Himalayas or surfing mighty waves are all tough and exciting extreme sports, than you have not been to India to see the wet mud bull races which are held in Kerala. If you prefer a dry version, Pakistan has some over there.
The most famous bull race is held in Kerala in India and it is an extremely tough one. Bulls are reared specially for racing. They are fleet footed and tough and two of them are hitched together in a harness and a team of 3 men tries to run with the bulls till the finishing point which may be about 100 metres or so. A paddy field is filled with water days in advance and the field is generally in 6 or more inches of water. There is fine mud and rain and sometimes sunshine to accompany the event.
The bulls are always impatient and eager to run the gauntlet of 100 plus yards, mud or no mud. Two runners hold a guide rope to control the direction and speed of the bulls and they actually sprint in the mud alongside the bulls. There is a third rider who sits on a thin plank of wood between the two bulls. Here is a photograph to show case how it looks.
This event is one of sheer courage and am sure an embodiment of manhood for the Malayali man. That year there were about 50-60 heads of bulls that you could count. The latest one held in August in 2012 is reported to have had only 12 pairs. There has been a steady decline in the numbers mostly because of ongoing litigation between organizations wanting a ban on any event that requires animals to perform. They are fighting cases in the Higher courts to stop the horse races because of the usage of a whip. Stuff like that. Anyway, it appears that these races may go on now till it suffers normal attrition as less and less brave or courageous souls venture in this mad bull rush.
For this event I drove down from Cochin to a small town called Adoor. Close to this, is a village called Ananadapalli where the race track was located.The whole exercise of the bull racing is called “Maramadi” or Maramady” and is held every year around Onam time. It is an agrarian pursuit and a thrill to watch for the pure joy of men splashing in the water and running as if for their lives. Beats the 100 m dash at the Olympics.
More exciting things happen during the race. Specially interesting and dangerous is when the bulls can not be stopped from running. They scramble and jump over the 4-6 feet embankment in the blink of an eye and the bystanders, mostly young men packed on the earthen bund have to save their lives. Similar fate awaits camera men who happen to be there. Fortunately all is in God’s hand and nothing untoward happens. A living proof that God exists and wants Indians alive and kicking..err running.;-)
This post is to showcase photos from the event A series of photos where the bulls go charging into the embankment stands will come up in a separate post.
All stories must have a beginning.
As you come out of the Shivalik ranges that form the southern bastion of Dehradun and head for the dust fields of Delhi, you pass through quaint rugged settlements populated by a rustic breed of farmers, tillers, cattle keepers, cut throats and other remanants of the Huns that invaded the country many centuries ago.
Chhutmalpur is one such sleepy place where in the season they crush sugarcane and make “gur”. From my early childhood days I remember seeing open fire pits blazing away in the night and workers silhouetted in the flames. The sweet heady aroma of raw sugar cane juice being boiled in large cast iron pans and the leftover acrid tingle of molasses was a smell that one grew up in the valley of Dehradun. It still has the same overpowering presence that it had back then.
I was passing Chhutmalpur enroute to Dehradun after photographing the Pushkar Cattle Fair. It was a good time to stop. There were no other passengers with me and this was like Childhood Revisited.
I am reminded of a book ” Rerun at Rialto ” written with great finesse by Tom Alter, where he writes of this very place in one of his stories. A book worth reading for its simple easy narrative and some unexpected twists that make the stories so much more endearing. That was ages ago. I once read voraciously but rarely read fiction now. This book is a treat and along with books of Ruskin Bond, a beautiful easy read.
Here are 11 photos that make this sweet essay on the making of gur.
This is highway58 and you can see the traditional cow patties that have worked the Indian hearths for ages. Some of it still does apparently. It is the season for sugarcane and you can see a buffalo drawn cart carrying sugar cane
The months of May and June are the peak of summer in India. The Himalayas provide a weekend or more of succour and relief from the heat and dust of the plains.
This summer even the Himalayas are burning hot. Red hot. Flash fires are sprouting everywhere. Specially the forests in the lower reaches where pine trees are in abundance.
This is a collection of photos taken in the last 7 days.
Photography of the common, mundane and often neglected ethnographic events and fairs of the Indian Society with special emphasis on Kerala, Goa, Karnataka and Meghalya.
Winemaking in Goa - the holiday hub of India.
And some cheese making too.