One of the most appreciated features of street photography is that you don’t have to go far to pursue it. The moment you step out with a camera, it all becomes a shooting site. Therefore, aspects such as location do not play a vital role in street photography. Yet when it comes to selecting an area, there are certain ideas that are highly common. For instance, old markets, religious places, historical monuments, and so on.
In India, streets connecting with rivers may easily be one of the most preferred locations. For the residents, it may not make much of a difference. However, when looked from the perspective of street photography, riverside streets open a massive doorway to observation. Surprisingly, it is more than rivers that captivates the interest of street photographers.
Riverside Streets Of India
Street photographers are those silent observers of our society whose photographs reflect a truth that is not idealized in any form. Society, a fusion of culture, believes and communities, is the honest portrayal which completes street photography. It is the search of this reality why street photographers go farther in their explorations. It won’t be wrong to say that street photography is not exploring places but exploring society and all that is related to it.
Riversides are considered the most liveable from the beginning of human settlements. For the same reason, the area surrounding rivers has an unusual blend of cities’ oldest and popular sites, usually hiding in the middle of ever-flourishing markets. With every sunrise, streets around the rivers showcase places that are full of life, colors, religion, tradition, and most importantly, the whole story of India summarised in one look around. It is on the banks of Indian rivers that you stand in the middle of the utmost genuine shades of society in every direction. It is here that street photographers have captured a glimpse of some of the most exciting stories in their photos.
Rivers, Religion, And Places
In India, rivers are more than just flowing water or the source of life and livelihood. They are bound to be connected to religion and faith. Rivers are the flame of the believes that binds a population of more than millions with their Gods and Goddesses. So it is no surprise that many of the Indian festivals are celebrated in praise of rivers. Cities surrounding a river take great honor in witnessing a part of its amazingly long journey. Every city located near a river has a different feature to offer.
Kolkata - Hooghly River
A different Kolkata emerges around Hooghly, a cultural hub. The ghats of Hooghly and every nearby location has witnessed the rule of the Mauryans, the Mughals, and later the East India Company from its earliest age of development. After all the centuries, the past has not left the banks of Kolkata and has managed to store the evidence of its history till now.
Trees of banyan and peepul cover the length of ghats allowing mini-communities to nurture in between. On one end of the famous Howrah bridge is the Mullick Ghat flower market, a one of its kind place and beyond the explanation of words. The flower market is next to another market named Posta which is known for its spices, salts, oils, garlic, and sugar. No wonder Hooghly is famous for its early morning photo walks. A walk along the ghats and nearby places gives the sense of all it has seen and all it has been through. The ancient buildings of worship, rituals, and a fading four hundred years of British rule. Most of the ancient ghats of architectural significance are now just ruins. Built during the mid 19th century, Prinsep Ghat is the last one standing ghat.
Varanasi - Ganga
Located on the banks of the river Ganga, Varanasi is believed to be the world’s oldest living city. What makes Varanasi unlike any Indian city is its success in maintaining the ancient form of India, before any infiltrations. For many centuries, pilgrims have reached Varanasi from all parts of India and the world to walk a step further on the road to spirituality. Every year, on the night of Dev Deepawali, Varanasi lightens up as the city of light. The Dev Deepawali is celebrated fifteen days after Diwali. A million lamps are lighted on the ghats and floating diyas in the river brightens up the sky.
What we see today is the standing historic domes, ashrams, priests, saints with immense knowledge of Hindu Vedas, and busy alleyways packed with shops of banarasi sarees. Kashi Vishwanatha Temple and Jyotirlinga Temple, the most prominent religious destinations in the city are also situated on the ghats of Ganga. In the backdrop of ancient temples, the ghats of Varanasi calls for the celebration of life and the mourning of death. To watch the sunrise from a boat or to go for an early morning walk in the narrow streets are the best ways this city offers to look deep into its ages-old history. Varanasi is another city that couldn’t exist had it not been for the river. Yet the present state of Ganga is clearly neglected and all the practices that should be minimized continue to flourish.
Srinagar - Jhelum
Famous for its lakes, houseboats, and gardens, Srinagar is developed on the banks of Jhelum. The river is rightly said to be the life-line of Kashmir and its residents. Many Kashmiri families live on houseboats on the river that is surrounded by several parks and greenery. Unlike rivers flowing from many major cities, Jhelum is not overly-crowded and just a peaceful walk along the river is enough to tell a lot about the life in the city.
Haridwar - Ganga
Haridwar has over dozens of ghats spread on both sides of Ganga. Every twelve years, Kumbh Mela is organized in the city where millions of sadhus and saints gather to take a ritual dip in the holy Ganga. In Uttrakhand, rivers are still breathing and this is another reason for the city to attract tourists. Due to great tourism, the ghats have been rebuilt several times resulting in the loss of its original form. Still, Haridwar manages to store the spirit of the city within its streets, old bridges, and known shops.
Rishikesh - Ganga
Rishikesh and Haridwar are neighboring cities. Both of the cities show a different site on the banks of Ganga. To know the culture and tradition of Rishikesh at its best, the lanes leading to the riverside must be taken. The small temples, markets, and eateries are filled with tourists and residents. A walk from to Ram Jhula to Lakshman Jhula concluding at the 13-storied structure of Trayambakeshwar Temple can be all that one needs to observe. Not to mention the majestic view of the city from the heights of this temple.
Agra - Yamuna
Agra is a city with several heritage sites. Sadly, the city no more takes pride in mentioning the river Yamuna. It is no more one of Agra's features. The ancient ghats that stood alongside the Yamuna disappeared into thin air during the Emergency in the late 1970s. Agra has since nearly forgotten the river as it serves no better use than a wasteland. Neglected and forced into its dreadful condition, the Yamuna and its surrounding still continue to be an example of our harsh reality. Musi river of Hyderabad, Gomti river of Lucknow and many more not mentioned here are suffering a similar fate.
Ahmedabad - Sabarmati
In the last century, Ahmedabad gained popularity for Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram which was built on the banks of the Sabarmati river. Over the decades, this river has battled the same war with pollution.
To look on the brighter side, social activist Dinesh Kumar Gautam's example must be mentioned. The previous year, his initiative set an example of how a difference can be made if one is dedicated to the cause of saving rivers. He took the responsibility for an upstream area of the river and with the support of 1000 volunteers managed to clear 3 tonnes of garbage.
The Alarming States Of Rivers
Every other great city in the world is built around a river. London grew around the river Thames, Paris developed around the river Seine, Amsterdam has Amstel and India is just the same as the rest. Delhi is spread around the river Yamuna, Lucknow has Gomti, Kolkata is on the side of Hooghly, Surat has Tapi and Nashik has river Godavari. Though Indian settlements had the same thought of convenience in mind, rivers in India, are nowhere close to the rest of the world. Indians have forgotten about the rivers. It is only in the moments of religion, that we look back at our rivers. The word exploitation is an understatement of what our rivers suffer.
Leaving it all on the authorities won't free us from our part. The most one can do is to not worsen the present situation from one's own end. What may look like a tiny contribution may become a reason for greater change. A river in itself is the most ideal example of how small droplets become life-givers for mankind, then how can even the smallest effort be in vain?