Dollu Kunitha is a folk dance of Karnataka performed by men of the Kuruba community. Two decades back, Sri Choodmani Ramachandra overcame several barriers to learn how to play Dollu (drum) and formed her all-women Dollu Kunitha troupe. Her perseverance led to breaking the glass ceiling for female drummers. Aparna Nori traced Choodmani Ramachandra's life story at her native place and documented the dying art of handmade drum making.
The 450-year Portuguese rule left an indelible mark on Goa, where new introductions from Portugal and its colonies added on a foundation of indigenous Konkani customs and traditions, creating a culture which is typically ‘Goan’. Arnab Bhaumik roamed around the state capturing this mixed culture which is expressed in the architecture, food, markets, old neighbourhoods and the night-long performance of Zagor, a Konkani drama participated by both, Christians and Hindus.
Meghalaya receives high rainfall which sustains a sub-tropical ecosystem, venerated by the local tribes as sacred landscape. For centuries, the Khasi people, through an ingenious system of bioengineering, manipulated the Ficus Elastica plant to create spectacular root bridges. In Seij village, Deepti Asthana photographed a family who dedicated their lives in building root bridges and the value they create for future generations through their work.
Pondicherry was established by the French East India Company and it served as the Capital of French India till administration was handed over to India in 1962. Even after merger with India, Franco-Pondicherrians retained their French citizenship. G.Pattabiraman, himself a native of Pondicherry, documents how every year on July 14th, Franco-Pondicherrians assemble to mark Bastille Day (French National Day), and celebrate their long historical and cultural links with France.
The Siddis are Africans who were brought to India as slaves. In medieval India, they rose to positions of great prominence and had a strong presence along the Konkan coast. Though living in India for centuries, they were discriminated for their appearance, and have struggled for acceptance within Indian society. Indrajit Khambe visited Siddi villages in Karnataka to find how youngsters from the community are making a resurgence through sports.
In Tulu and Konkani culture, no religious, social or family event is complete without use of Jasmine (Mallige) flowers. In Udupi district, Shankarapura is a major producer of Udupi Mallige, famed for its fragrance. The flower is used in a variety of commercial products and at temples and homes. Kaveer Rai documented the local Christian community who are engaged in Jasmine cultivation and the daily task of preparing Jasmine strings.
For more than 200 years, the Chhota Nagpur Plateau and Damodar River Valley has been mined for its coal reserves. These mining operations are spread over Jharkhand and Bengal. Nilesh Kumar visited Piparwar coal mines, a massive open-cast mine which has irreversibly damaged the natural environment. He documents the difficult circumstances under which labourers work in these mines, daily exposing themselves to pollutants like coal dust and other hazards.
Mallakhamb is an apparatus for physical training in which the athlete exercises on a wooden pole doing a combination of yoga, gymnastics and wrestling. Saipriya visited Tamizhan Mallakhamb Sports Academyin Chennai to document the hard work athletes put in learning Mallakhamb under the watchful eye of coach Prakash. Their goal is to win medals for Tamil Nadu at the National Level and make Mallakhamb a globally popular fitness sport.
Durga Puja is the grandest festival for Bengali Hindus. In Kolkata, the festival was patronized by bonedi baris; aristocratic families who made their fortune during the 18th and 19th centuries. In their family puja, Devi Durga is worshipped in the form of a Kumari (prepubescent maiden); manifestation of Adi Shakti (The Divine Mother). Sandipa Malakar visited a couple of bonedi baris to understand how Kumari Puja is performed and its relevance to empowerment of the girl child.
Culture is not limited to a set of old practices, rituals and traditions, but is constantly evolving. New forms of cultural expressions continue to emerge in modern times, something which Sharmistha Dutta explored at Lodi Colony, in Lutyens Delhi. In this open art gallery, artists from around the world address a wide range of subjects through larger-than-life murals through an initiative by St+Art India Foundation.
Uttarpara, near Kolkata, was birthplace of the Hindustan Ambassador which became the preferred mode of transport for bureaucrats and ministers in the government. In the 1960’s it also became popular as a Taxi. Sudipto Das photographed the daily bustle of taxi drivers and fate of the yellow taxis of Kolkata, which face increasing competition from new cab aggregator services, declining business and pollution control clampdown.
Nabadwip in Bengal is renowned for Sanskrit scholarship and as the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, one of the great figures of the Bhakti movement who established the Gaudiya Vaishnavism tradition. Nabadwip resident Sujoy Saha photographed craftsmen who make japamala and kanthimala for Gaudiya Vaishnava pilgrims. These handcrafted malas, made from the sacred Tulsi plant, help devotees in their prayers and to seek Krishna consciousness.
Tiger Shrimp (Bagda Chingri) is harvested in the Sundarbans, where they spawn naturally in the mangrove wetlands. Tania Chatterjee travelled to the Sundarbans to document the meendharas; fisherwomen who catch the fry (meen) and sell them to middlemen. Meendharas are all women and their backbreaking work in a hostile environment runs the prawn industry. The small income they earn help sustain their families.
Making a Bansuri (flute) is mastered through years of practice which brings together knowledge of plants with knowledge of music. Vivek Muthuramalingam travelled to Uttar Kannada district to meet Satish Krishna Shanbag, an agriculturalist and trained musician who made bamboo flutes in his spare time. The bamboo is sourced from the ecosystem of the Aghanashini River, and its selection is as much a delicate process as the making of a high quality handcrafted bansuri.