The Photo Story: Sensing India Anew!

India is a land where religion, quite literally, is the opiate of the masses. On the ghats of Benaras, Haridwar, or even at the Kumbh Mela, the smells of flowers, agarbatti and even nasha from the pipes of certain sadhus mingle to create a dense, sweet and unique smell!


A compilation of images from 20-odd photographers, India Five Senses features exciting and thought-provoking work capturing the eccentricities of a much-photographed country in novel and unprecedented ways 

What makes India unique is its vast accumulation of cultures, piled one upon another over the centuries, the sheer variety of communities and their lifestyles ranging from medieval to modern, tribal to contemporary in a continuous present without any dividing line between yesterday and today, prompting India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to call India “a palimpsest.”

There is not a moment or a day that is not predictably unpredictable in this country. This is a land where enriching rivers are considered sacred, where God is perceived and seen in myriad forms given shape by both nature and man. There are any number of festivals and occasions to celebrate month after month, season after season: it is a veritable celebration of life itself.

India’s situation in the southern part of the Asian continent has made it the receptacle for the many cultures not only of Asia, but also of Europe and Africa. From invaders to traders, from migrants to visitors, India has played host to them all. This continuing influx has created an ethos and a way of life that is unique to India, continually evolving and contributing to its civilization of over 5,000 years… While the past is ever present, the contemporary and modern have also enriched the country… (like) the political and social leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the literary contribution of Rabindranath Tagore – two great minds who were, to quote Jawaharlal Nehru, “Two types entirely different from each other, and yet both of them typical of India.” A prolific writer himself, Nehru, in his seminal work Discovery of India, summed up the idea of India as a “…bundle of contradictions held together by strong but invisible threads.”

These photographs are frozen moments in an evolving narrative of exotic flavours, colours and aromas. And there are many such remarkable visuals present in this volume – images of life and the experience of India that animate the narrative of the country, every frame telling a story that is quintessentially Indian.

  • Shyam Benegal in the foreword to India Five Senses
  • (LustrePress/RoliBooks; Rs 1,995).






The affectionate touch is an important part of Indian community living, although barriers of gender do come into play. Be it the casual hug of an acquaintance, the tight embraces under the Eid moon, or even the casual nudges and shoves between old friends, touch becomes an expression of warmth and fondness
During certain Indian festivals, it is a common sight to see children dressed up as religious deities. Families often make their children dress like the god they wish to appease. But, sometimes, children don the garb of divinity and are then made to beg for alms, for who could refuse a god-child? Here, a boy dressed as Lord Shiva poses for a picture at the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad