Stories from the Road is a collection of stories about my own photographic adventures in South Asia. Sometimes the stories are exciting and sometimes mundane and at times emotional. This section deals with vernacular photography and the way we all experience the photographs we see. What they meant when we took them and what they mean over time.

Experiencing a Hindu Prayer at Kumbhalgarh Fort

A few months ago, I took a day trip to Kumbhalgarh with Brad and two other people we did not know. Kumbhalgarh is a fort about 80 kilometers north of Udaipur. Oddly I have not shown any of the photographs on the blog yet. I guess life got busy with Holi and my mom visiting and Kumbhalgarh got overshadowed. However, I had a nice experience there.

The photograph above show the wall above a doorway to a temple area. It is situated in the back-left hand corner of a large opening in the structure. There are paintings on the stone in orange paint. They depict squares of numbers, a trident, multiple words and a lotus flower surrounded by words. To me the entire motif is foreign. However, I wanted to document the modern human activity that had occurred above the doorway.

The doorway was magical in a way. Once you walked through the threshold, you entered a dark room. On the left side of the room was a deity. I think it was Shiva. There was a woman in the room and she was holding a lamp. It is customary to use your hands to bring the smoke to your eyes, so I performed this act. I also got down on my knees and touched my head to the ground. This is what the other women in the room were doing. Then I gave a small donation and the woman gave me an orange tilak (circular mark) on my forehead.

I always love having these spiritual/cultural experiences with locals. Any time you have an encounter that is tailored to tourists you get the feeling that it is not legitimate and you do not have feel uplifted at all. However, this experience was unique and genuine. It reminds me of two experiences I had the first time I came to India. One at a Jain temple in Mumbai and the other in a Hindu temple in Ellora. I will have to see if I have photograph from either of these places.

I had another nice experience at a Sufi shrine, Haji Ali Dargah, that is off the coast of Mumbai in the Arabian Sea. I got blessed and it was nice. There I was sitting in room full of women. Funny, I do not consider myself to be religious or spiritual really, however, I adore these cultural exchanges. It broadens my world to actively participate in the ways others worship. I was brought up Protestant, so there was never anything extravagant or elegant or fun.

This is probably my favorite memory from Kumbhalgarh. If you are ever there, I hope you go in this little temple and I hope the woman is there to give you a tilak. She was friendly and non-judgmental, a rarity for today’s world. I am also super excited I took this trip with Brad. Neither one of us had been there before so we got to experience it together a new.  This is the kind of experience you hope for when you travel long term or move to a new country. To a new experience with a new friend.

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