Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pandharpur Wari - A Journey of Faith

Before I start, let me give you a brief introduction of the event. Thousands of people called ‘Varkari’ reach Pandharpur from Alandi or Dehu after walking for about 250kms in Aashad (a hindu month which coincides with June/ July) Ekadashi (11th day of the moon). They walk with palkhis (chariots) carrying paduka (sandals) of the saints singing sacred songs.

Varkaris are a Hindu religion sect who workship Vithoba (or Vitthal),  an incarnation of Krishna.

Travelling to Pandharpur was a very hasty decision taken at the last moment but I didnt want to miss it this year. We took a train to Solapur and then a local bus to Pandharpur.

To make the best use of morning time (which is the golden hour for photographers), we decided to reach late and stay at Pandharpur rather than staying at Solapur. By the time we reached the place, it was already past midnight. We did not have any advance booking and were struggling to find a place to stay. As we were doing hotel hunting, I did not miss any opportunity to take some shots. It was surprising that even at the middle of the night, there were lots of people around.


 The first view of the temple. PandharpurWari-003

After a search for about an hour and finding absolutely no options, we gave up and decided to spend the night at the bus station sitting on one of the benches.

Travelling has it own adventures, and it makes you mentally strong and fearless to be prepared for the unforeseen. PandharpurWari-005

We woke up early, and took an auto to Wakhari – the place where the palaki was supposed to reach that day. It was unbelievable to see the unending stretch of Dindis (or groups) approaching Pandharpur.

It was drizzling but the devotees continued their march.

   PandharpurWari-009 The first views of the procession. PandharpurWari-015 PandharpurWari-126

A procession with Palki PandharpurWari-037

Women carry Tulsi (basil) plants on their head to offer at the temple

Some even read sacred books on the way.


I have made a few padyatras (journeys on foot) before and could understand how difficult it can be walking for 20 days in sun and rain.

Singing bhajans (religious songs) on the way definitely makes it easy. People carry musical instruments like local veenas, mridungas, dholkis and chiplis. They also perform a tradition folk dance called fugdi which energizes them.

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Every group has a leader wearing a special uniform and a hat. He controls the movement of the group and to check if anyone is left behind.

Most of these people stay in temporary tents beside the road. Many spend the nights in trucks which also serve as a place for keeping their luggage.


Many people, who can’t afford, carry all their stuff on their head all the way. PandharpurWari-090

A lone sadhu walking through the countryside PandharpurWari-079

Washing and drying clothes on the way PandharpurWari-096

A tribal with traditional jewellery  PandharpurWari-145

Pilgrims take a bath at the river ‘Chandrabhaga’ before visiting the main temple.
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I always love shooting people as they add to the flavour of a place. Here are some of them.
  PandharpurWari-106 PandharpurWari-035 PandharpurWari-039 PandharpurWari-047 PandharpurWari-049 PandharpurWari-065 PandharpurWari-067 PandharpurWari-110 PandharpurWari-117 PandharpurWari-192

Though I was just for a day and was not able to capture all the flavours of the yatra, nevertheless, I really enjoyed it. I hope you did too, reading this.
I will bring back more next year!

- Saurabh Chatterjee
My pictures

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bandipur Tiger Reserve - A Visit to the Wilderness

Going to the wild is always exciting and soothing - the excitement of watching the wild animals and the tranquility of being in the lap of mother-nature.

Not having a great telephoto lens, I decided to take less pictures and enjoy the nature at the most through my own eyes.

As we crossed Gundulpet, the main town before Bandipur, the landscape changed. We could see the beautiful mountains covered with clouds. The weather was just perfect with the cool mountain breeze blowing.


The road ahead beyond the sanctuary leads to Ooty. It passes through the heart of the sanctuary, crossing hills with several hair-pin bends.


This is a common scene while you drive past those roads. We need to drive slowly and carefully and let the animals go first as it is their territory. There are several notice boards warning us - "Wild animals have the right of the way in the Tiger Reserve Limits" and “Wild Animal Crossing Zone”.


Its 4 pm and we head to the national park using one of the vehicles owned by Jungle Lodges and resorts for jungle safari. Private vehicles are not allowed inside the park. These govt. vehicles though are in good condition and are able to pull the rough and muddy terrain. The best thing about the vehicles are the huge windows which provide you enough room to shoot with a camera. You are not allowed to step out of the vehicle though. The forest department vehicles are much like the conventional mini-buses and have less space to see out or shoot.


Even if you don’t get to see a wild animal, its a great experience driving through those beautiful winding roads inside the sanctuary. As it was monsoon, the greenery was ubiquitous and added to the charm.

One of the settlements near the park.

There are several villages and small settlements on the border of the park and they are a big cause for the man-animal conflict. Tackling this is one of the biggest challenges for the Forest Department. Wild animals stray out of the forest and kill livestock and sometimes humans as well. A huge budget of the department goes in paying compensation in these cases. On the contrary, there are several encroachments of forest land by the local people – another big issue for the protectors of the forest. There was one case of a village being settled in the forest land and it was named after Indira Gandhi so that the officials cannot move them out.

Places to Stay

Stay in the forest is great for people of all budget groups.

For people who want the best in terms of accommodation, the well reputed Jungle Lodges and Resorts, Bandipur owned by Govt. Of Karnataka is unmatched.

One of the suites of the Jungle Lodge and Resorts.

For budget travelers there are rooms available at Forest Rest House Bandipur. These rooms are just at the border of the park. Rooms can be booked online.Bandipur-137

I woke up early in the morning and was amazed to see plenty of chitals around. They feel safe near human presence but as the day breaks, they run away into the forest. Bandipur-078 More experience in the park will follow soon. :)