I’m back & the Dhamrai Rath Yatra

It’s been a long break.  I have been around and looking in but things have been moving at a hectic pace.  Since the last post, I’ve had a solo exhibition, a holiday, a finished SoFoBoMo project, rounds of farewell parties for friends and for us as we move next month to Colombo. I’m back and will be posting regularly again.

Dhamrai Rath

Yesterday we went to Dhamrai to watch the Jaganath Rath Yatra.   It is 20km from Dhaka yet it took us two and half hours to get there.  Unfortunately, we were not able to stay to watch the event as I had a dinner engagement.  But we did get to see the Rath (chariot) and the crowds had started coming in and was building up as we were leaving.

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

I was told that eventually there were huge numbers and no place to move.  People after filling the street were lining  terraces, balconies and roofs of the buildings along the route too.  In a way it was better that we left when we did as else we’d never have made it back home in time.

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

There was what seemed like a lot of  police bandobast when we first got there but in all made sense when were heading back and after seeing the pics from last year here.

There are stories and stories built around this event and once such is that it rains on this day every year – tears shed by Madhavi returning to her in-laws home and it did this year too!  You wouldn’t have believed it if you’d felt the heat and seen the sunny skies in the morning.  It was nice and slushy when we got there but the puddles dried up quickly in the heat.

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

Dhamrai is famous for it’s temples, old houses and bronze sculptures, made using a rare process – the lost wax casting technique.  It also has an annual Rath Yatra, a procession in which a chariot takes Lord Jaganath (Krishna), his brother Balaram and his sister Shubhadra to visit his aunt who lived a distance of 2km away.

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

Dhamrai Rath Yatra

The chariot is pulled by devotees as it is considered to be very auspicious.   There are huge crowds and many brave these to get closer and at least touch one of the ropes that are pulling the chariot if not actually taking a turn at pulling it themselves. In earlier years, people would arrive a few days before and there would be a fair to keep them busy. This year there were just a few and they were waiting inside the temple for the event to start and some had knotted hair and dreadlocks!

Dhamrai Rath Yatra
Dhamrai Rath Yatra Dhamrai Rath Yatra

Originally there was a 6 storied wooden chariot to take the deities on this journey but this was burnt down in 1971.  It was replaced by another smaller two storied chariot soon after.  While this one is not as elaborate the crowds still gather in unbelievable numbers to be a part of this occasion.

And if you didn’t know, the word juggernaut is derived from the name of this event. In the past, the crowds pulling the chariot and the devotees trying to reach out and volunteer to pull the chariot led to some accidentally falling under the wheels and being crushed to death. Once the wheels were in motion and these 6 storied high heavy wooden chariots pulled by hundreds of people it was difficult to stop them in time. Sometimes these events resulted in stampedes which again were difficult to stop or control. This led the British to coin the word juggernaut, an unstoppable force.

More from wikipedia about the Rath Yatra and on the word juggernaut.   And you can read more about the Dhamrai event and see the pictures of the huge crowds here.    And you can see a selection of about 30 from the 400(!) I clicked on flickr.


Detach : Illustration Friday

Dignity of Labour

Sometimes you have to detach yourself to be able to get on with dealing with the hand that life has dealt you. This is a daily cart puller who stopped along the way for a breather.

Dignity of Labour, 8″ X 10″ acrylic on canvas roll.

Photo ref copyright Anil Advani.  Used with permission.


Check out many more interpretations on

Wanting to be painterly

The Chanachur Man - wip

Thinking and trying not to get caught up in trying to get all the details.  Trying to be free and painterly and even if I’m not there yet it’s been fun.

I know I’ve given the men in the background oversized heads but didnt feel like correcting it. Marked as wip as it doesnt feel done yet. I’m going to sleep on it and look at it with fresh eyes tomorrow.  Do you see anything that needs changing?

Here’s a sepia version put up because it looked nice. Maybe I’ll do one in brown tones 😀

The Chanachur man - wip - sepia

Colourful Bangladesh


I take reference pictures of scenes and subjects that I would like to paint. My focus, in the past, had been on friends and family. It’s only after arriving in Dhaka that I’ve started taking photographs of the daily activity around me in the streets. I prefer to take photographs during the golden hour in the afternoon. Usually the snaps are taken while whizzing past in a car. Here’s one which I’ve saved inspite of the blur. Something in it appeals to me.

How to take a candid photograph with a point and shoot?

Art morning at Susannah's

Recently there was an interesting post on Photodoto about Photographing people in public places by Elizabeth West. I had left a comment asking how I could go about getting candid photographs. Most of the ones that I’ve taken on the streets of Dhaka look posed. Mainly because the folks in our part of the world are very friendly and the minute they see you taking photographs they’ll come up and ask you to take one of theirs. Like this one on top.

Elizabeth replied to my comment saying that I should try and be inconspicuous and take photographs before people noticed you. I found that I had been doing this already. The problem with this approach was that I needed to be in a car and usually zipping by, shooting whenever I got the opportunity. A lot of moments get missed, some turn out out of focus but you do get an occasional gem. The one below doesn’t fall into the gem category but is one where i haven’t been noticed.


Another way of taking sort of candid photographs was to be part of a group of photographers and then look around for subjects who are not looking at you. I discovered this a few months ago. I’m usually on my own when I take photographs and so have been able to try this method out just twice. The photograph of the two children below is one such example.


One other method suggested by Alexander, in the same thread and one followed by professionals, was to stay in one location for a while till people had lost interest in you and then take the kind of photographs you need. These would make for some truly candid photographs and it is something I plan to try.

Casey and about trading portraits


I’ve been wanting to trade portraits for a while. What got me started was a portrait swap that I did over at WetCanvas! and I have this lovely painting to show for it. Then six months later I read about digital swaps at Rama Hughes blog “The Portrait Party“. It gave me a reason to consider approaching fellow group members for a swap. And I asked Jana and later Casey.

They both agreed at different times but coincidentally I received their photo references on the same day 😀 And then while I was looking , admiring and deciding which reference to use and what medium to work with, the first drawing was on my screen! Casey’d emailed her drawing of me. Wow! It was beautiful and she had been so quick. I was expecting at least a week or two to pass by before getting to see the results.

Feeling the pressure, I sat down yesterday with Casey’s photograph and drew with a Derwent “light wash” pencil that I’d been meaning to try out. This is the result after adding strokes with the “dark wash” pencil and then water over parts of the drawing this evening.

Casey has always been very encouraging and supportive and I really appreciate it as I’m sure do many other edm’ers. Thank you Casey!

Update : October 1, 2007 : Rama has put this swap up over at the Portrait Party blog.

Pencil on 10″ X 15″ Canson Barbizon paper