The magazine provides a platform for the artistic work of ‘strong personalities who have a great sense of responsibility for who they are and what they create’ and urges ‘people to explore different perspectives about the world’ which they are more than happy to portray. Founded and edited by Navz Sangwan, himself originating from north India and currently a Phd student in the UK, Bizarre Culture reaches out and invites submissions from artists and others with alternative and compelling perspectives who fit their bill. Fortunately they offered interest and some coverage for my photographs.
Focussing on images from the Maha Kumbh Mela currently, there is a suggestion the magazine may carry further features portraying images and information from other parts of the Ganges ritual worship and culture project, the next possibly the Hindu gods of Varanasi. As well as being of personal benefit by advertising my own photography, the magazine genuinely promotes interesting features and deserves to more widely read. Can I ask that readers of this share Bizarre Culture’s featured articles with family and friends.
My project to document the ritual worship site on the river Ganges will recommence in April and May 2016, attending the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Haridwar before heading north, via Devprayag, to witness the opening of the temple at Gangotri on Akshaya Tritiya, an auspicious date commemorating the birthday of Lord Parasurama ( the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu ) and the day Veda Vyas and Lord Ganesha began to write the Mahabharata. The date varies year by year and in 2016 it will occur on May 9th.
Gangotri is one of the locations visited on the Char Dahms Yatra. These are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India all considered to be sources of the Ganges river and are widely revered by Hindus. The other pilgrimages sites, also in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, are Yamunotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. All are considered auspicious and all close down for winter where effigies are removed to lower villages where they continue to be revered. Gangotri is considered the most revered of all the Char Dahms.
From Gangotri a 19km trek into the Himalayas leads to Gaumuhk, literally ‘the cow’s mouth’, where the Ganges issues forth as a small stream from an ice cave at the snout of a large glacier. Pilgrims make their way by foot, the path having being damaged in recent floods, staying at several small ashrams in order to break the journey. Depending on my health I am hoping to reach here to photograph pilgrims bathing in the icy waters.
Devprayag is a town on one of the sacred Panch Prayag (five confluences in the hills) and is specifically where the rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers meet and take the name Ganga or Ganges. “Devaprayaga” means “Godly Confluence” in Sanskrit. According to mythology, the river Saraswati, originating from the feet of Shri Raghunath Ji in Raghunath Temple in Devprayag, also contributes to this confluence and the site of confluence is called Sangam, as in Allahabad where the mythological Saraswati joins the rivers Ganges and Jamuna. Devprayag is a place of pilgrimage for many Hindus and I hope to spend time here.
The Maha Kumbh Mela ( Allahabad in 2013 where the photographs on this page were taken ) is held every three years in each of four different locations, returning to each of four places every twelve years. An Ardh (half) Mela (festival) takes place six years after the Maha Kumbh in each location. In 2016 it is held in Haridwar, starting early January and ending late April. The principle bathing days accord with auspicious days in the Hindu calendar and will be :
1. 14 , January, 2016 Makarsakranti
2. 12 , February, 2016 Basant Panchami
3. 22 , February, 2016 Maagh Purnima
4. 07 , March, 2016 Shree Maha Shivratri
5. 07, April, 2016 Chetra Aamavasya
6. 08 , April, 2016 Navsamvat Aarambh/
Chetra Shukl Pritpada Snan
7. 14 , April, 2016 Mesha Sakranti
8. 15 , April, 2016 Shree Ramnavani Snan
9. 22 , April, 2016 Chaitra Purnima
It will be my hope to attend the bathing days in April before journeying on to Dev Prayag and Gangotri.
If I have time on this trip I will also visit Rishikesh, but I fear I will not have the time to do so on this trip. A return trip to Gangasagar is also required to recompense for my camera being stolen there and I will endeavour to photograph ritual activity at both locations in the winter of 2016.
On a final and personal note, I am so pleased to be in touch again with Mars and Leila, a French couple I met in Varanasi whose precocious young daughter Myona recognised and could recount the names of all the Indian deities whose images we passed. Leila was also so kind on my birthday when my health was suffering. I have learnt this evening that we both suffered a similar illness in our last weeks at Varanasi which continued after we both returned home, requiring Leila to be admitted to hospital. Can I thank you publicly for all of your kindness and friendship.