There is a saying – “The most beautiful lotus grows in the muddiest of marshes.”
There is no truer comparison to the saying when it comes to the State of Rajasthan in India. Vast stretches of the Thar Desert, golden sandy landscapes, utopian sunrises and calendar sunsets, vivid colours of its warm people with the humblest of livings – is a treat for any photographer.
I have a deep rooted connection here. I have spent four carefree years of my youth studying engineering in the city of Jaipur, so it’s no surprise that I have returned a few times, with my new friend, my camera, searching for a glimpse of memory here, or a moment of reminiscence there. I never really traveled across Rajasthan when I was studying in Jaipur, but since then I have been charmed by the life in this desert state every time I have set foot.
I have visited many of the famous cities in Rajasthan like Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer. I loved them most for their colors – the pink city of Jaipur, the blue city of Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer the golden city. The bright and colorful clothes people wear in towns and villages alike in this state, not to mention their smiling faces, have always warmed my hearts.
Each Rajasthani city is doused in history and showered with royalty. The stark contrast between the huge forts-turned-five-star-hotels and the meagre by-lanes is akin to the differences between the arid vastness of the desert land and the colorful (yet hard) life of people in Rajasthan.
The parching heat of the sun, the poverty that is rampant amongst the people of this state has not dampened the cultural and historical significance of the state. To add to it, the simplicity in attitude, the hospitality and the warmth of its people makes life enjoyable and worth experiencing for every visitor.
Culture, heritage and tradition are deeply rooted here and is not only reflected in the behavioural attributes of the locals, but also manifested in the colourful, physical appearance of the cities and the people. One can find the essence of its culture in the folk dances, sweet and spicy cuisines and in their everyday life. Rajasthan attracts tourists from all over the world for its culture, people, history, and monuments.
Rajasthan is a vivid, colourful state, and the zeal of its people can be seen in the smiling eyes that greet you, in the hard working street performers, in the humbleness of the migrating tribal folk, in the elderly who have colourful tales that keep many a bonfire alive and even in the modern city folk that are striving to lend a cosmopolitan touch to an otherwise conservative living.
The above photograph was taken inside the Jaisalmer fort, where a family is busy in an afternoon chat, while the child is studying. A perfect example of how the different colours of life come together. It is considered the only living fort in India as people still live and do business within the walls of the fort. The fort itself is filled with tiny streets and alleys filled with guest houses, hotels, restaurants and shops – and temples and havelis – beautiful architecture.
The streets of Jodhpur are buzzing with activity the whole day. And amidst the buzz this little child is seen enjoying the fare. Such little street eateries are scattered all over the city, making it easier for locals and hungry tourists (like me) to grab a quick bite before moving on. Rajasthan is also famous for its love for elaborate Indian food. Right from the spicy chilli to the sweet meats, Rajasthan is a burst of flavours.
While the streets, abuzz with activity are one side of the city; the other side shows how one can find peace anywhere in Rajasthan. In the image below, I saw this blue painted wall, the sleeping dog and the stairs and I stopped. Playing with my lens, I couldn’t quite find the right composition until this old man passed in a coat with tired eyes. For me this was perfect. After toiling hard in the unforgiving sun, one simply longs for peace, quiet and rest. While some here are fortunate enough to get some solace, others here continue even in the evening hours to make ends meet.
My walk down the streets of every quaint street in Rajasthan moved me to self-introspect. What keeps these people moving? What keeps them alive? What keeps that spirit kindred? Is it the meagre means, the simple wants and needs in life that define the lives of the people or perhaps the abundance of colour in their surroundings that serve as a visual reminder of the beauty that surrounds?
I saw a big heart, a kindness akin to vastness of the desert surrounding the state and a love for simple life. My travails in capturing my travels in Rajasthan were fruitful – personally and professionally. But not complete. I am sure I will visit Rajasthan many times in the coming years to capture more of the colorful life in its cities.