Sunday, January 14, 2007
Private moments in public places
I had that "I love this story" moment which usually happens for me at some odd point in the process of shooting. We are covering the Kumbh Mela in the north Indian city of Allahabad -- one of the largest gatherings of human beings on Earth. We had gotten up before sunrise to see people taking a dip in the frigid (but in the Hindu faith, holy) water where these rivers meet. We did a number of interviews and got some shots of the sun rising while people were shivering in the early morning light.
But it wasn't until later when we hired a boat to see the pilgrims dipping in from a different perspective that the size of the gathering and the strength of their faith really struck me. Those dipping into the Ganges/Yumena rivers are cordened back by a little rope fence which is constructed, presumably, for saving people from going too deep and possibly drowning. But sitting on the boat, we looked back at the sloping shoreline which was absolutely full of the devoted coming to the waters edge.
Everyone was facing out, toward the confluence of the rivers, where we were floating. Looking toward the shore there were layers and layers of people, dipping in the water, praying individually, or in families and groups, some were singing and chanting , others lighting incense, some laughing, some shivering, some playing, some with their hands raised to the heavens. This was all you could see up and down the river which was covered in flowers that had been tossed in.
This is something I've witnessed in other forms in my time living in India -- there is an incredibly independent or individual experience that is often carried out in the most public of places.
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