An Evening in Haridwar – Indian Street Photography

Man praying. Shot in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India.

Haridwar is an Indian city exalted amongst Hindus. Literally translating to “The Gateway for Lord Vishnu”, devotees from all over the country gather here. It marks the beginning of the “Char Dham”, an important Hindu pilgrimage circuit in the Himalayas. 

It is located in Uttarakhand, which is also called “Devbhumi”, or the land of God. This city is stunning from all angles.

Famous for its temples, pilgrims gather here every 12 years for the Kumbh Mela. The streets are lined with Sadhus offering their blessing to those who pass them by. The Ganga, the holy river for Hindus, flows through this city. A holy bath in its ghats is believed to wash away your sins.

Men bathing in holy water of Ganga. Shot in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India.
Bare Bodies

I had stayed at Haridwar for a day before heading for the Deoriatal-Chandrashila trek. That evening, armed with my camera, I wandered around the city. 

I rode down to the Ganges in a cycle rickshaw to witness the daily “aarti”. An aarti is a form of Hindu worship where lights are offered to the gods, along with prayers and flowers. It is conducted on the banks of the Ganges, where huge crowds join the temple priests in prayer.

Priests performing the daily Aarti. Shot in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India.
The Aarti

Being in Haridwar is a sensory overload; the sights, colours and smells are too potent. Rich hues of saffron and gold dot the landscape, with diyas burning at every turn.  

It is one of the best places to do street photography. I found myself constantly pulling up the camera to my eye, attempting to capture all that I saw. 

The ability to frame a typical sight in a way that makes your viewer’s head turn is a skill I aspire to attain. What seems ordinary to you might fire the imagination of someone else.

There, I found an old Sadhu sitting in a corner. He had a long, wizard-like beard, and he was in deep meditation. Beside him were his clothes, all wrapped in a bundle, along with his walking stick. Never having seen such a fascinating face, I endeavoured to take his portrait. He was pleasantly surprised to see me photographing him.

A Sadhu. Shot by Ishan Shanavas in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India.
The Sadhu

One particular sight that caught my eye was the vast array of food available. Weaving through the sea of people, you find numerous food stalls serving everything from phulkas to kheer. They make Aloo Tikkis on large circular vessels called “tawas”. Paratha, Kachori, Samosa—you name it. It is quite a sight to watch them cook for so many.

Man making Aloo Tikka. Shot in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India.
The Tikki Maker

Haridwar, with all its splendour, offers excellent street photography opportunities. It shows India in its most raw form. It is steeped in cultural history. From my short stay, I developed a deep fondness for this city. This series of images is the first from my (hopefully long) relationship with this place.

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Many people fail to understand my motivations behind street photography. They wonder what novelty I discover in photographing everyday scenes. To them, these is just ordinary settings.

Two woman around the scared fire.
Fiery Devotion

True artistic flair lies in these day-to-day scenarios. The ability to frame a typical sight in a way that makes your viewer’s head turn is a skill I aspire to attain. What seems ordinary to you might fire the imagination of someone else.

Haridwar has secured a place in my heart. Keen to go back as soon as possible.

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Published by Ishan Shanavas

I am a young adult, interested in nature, photography, art and culture. An aspiring polymath, I share my learnings through my blog. I also include insights from my favourite books.

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