Devotee Praying in the Hooghly River, Kolkata, India
India is a deeply spiritual country and Kolkata (Calcutta) is its former capital. In fact the word Kolkata comes out of the word Kalikata, meaning Land of Kali. Kali is the dark and powerful deity considered the goddess of time and change. Represented as the consort of the Lord Shiva, Hindu's regard Kali as the extreme mistress of the universe.
This image features a devotee bathing in the holy waters of the Hooghly River, a distributary (i.e., channel) of the holy Ganga (Ganges) River. The image also features the Vivekananda Setu, also known as the Willington Bridge or Bally Bridge in the background. The bridge links the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata in West Bengal.
The ghats from where this image was made is at the back of the famous Dakshineswar Temple. A ghat is a series of steps leading down to a body of water and, in this part of the world, ghats usually run down to holy bodies of water. Dedicated to the goddess Kali the Dakshinewar Temple and the Hooghly River are major tourist sites, as is evident by the heavily loaded boat ferrying tourists up and down the river.
The devotee in the foreground is the most important element in the picture. While a relatively small element within the frame, the devotee adds context by allowing us to discover and explore the spiritual narrative within the image. As a visual element he is supported by the boat load of local tourists in the mid ground and the bridge and city in the background.
The late afternoon light raked across the scene producing great textural qualities within the water. I opted for a warm, antique black and white rendering of the scene to emphasize the mood and deep sense of spirituality I experienced at the time.
India is a country full of dualities: rich and poor, beauty and ugliness, joy and despair, compassion and cruelty, love and, on occasions, deep-seated hate. As long as you can keep yourself safe and be careful who you interact with you'll be treated to a potentially life-changing experience. Be prepared and take the risk. It's called life!