Durga Puja in Delhi 2011


Devotees carry a small idol of Durga down the riverbank to the Yamuna in Delhi for immersion

Durga puja celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess Durga. It refers to all the six days observed as Mahalaya, Shashthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Ashtami, Maha Navami and Bijoya Dashami. The dates of Durga Puja celebrations are set according to the traditional Hindu calendar and the fortnight corresponding to the festival is called Devi Paksha (Bengali: ‘Fortnight of the Goddess’). In 2011 the evening of the 6th October corresponded with the final day of Durga puja and having missed this event in the past I was determined to attend this time. Convoys of lorries carrying the idols along with their retinue of joyous devotees jammed the roads near Kalindi Kunj in South Delhi in a slow moving boisterous column as I approached the river at dusk. At the top of the river bank cranes waited to lift the heavier idols down to the waters edge while the more manageable idols were carried lovingly down to the water by groups of devotees chanting ‘Bolo Durga mai-ki jai’ (glory be to Mother Durga’). Teams of yellow-shirted volunteers organised the immersions on a rough first-come-first-served basis and kept the process from decending into total chaos whilst also providing much needed muscle to shift the heavier tableaux that didn’t quite warrant a crane.

An idol splashes into the Yamuna

Volunteers steady idols on the edge of the Yamuna

I was able to shoot with natural light initially but soon it became much too dark and then flash was required. Above image 1/30 th @ F4, ISO 4000.

A woman reaches up to touch the face of the goddess just before the immersion

The atmosphere was charged with emotion as the worshippers bid tearful farewells to the deity after five days of prayers, feasting and merry-making at marquees across the city that housed the idols of the goddess and her five children. I like to shoot with quite long exposures in situations like this as this allows the scene to partially emerge from the low ambient light while the flash at the end of the exposure (rear-curtain) adds light and sharpness to the main focus of the image.The above frame was shot on ISO 4000 at 1/2.5 at F5.

Volunteers carry an idol of Durga down to the river

Above: ISO 2500, 1/10th @ F5.6

Drummers enhance the drama of the event

A crane lifts a heavy tableaux close to the waters edge

Devotees spin an idol several times before immersing it in the Yamuna

The above image was shot at ISO 1000, 1.3 seconds at F5.6. I personally like these impressionistic ‘arty blurs’ that come with quite long exposures though not everyone does!  It was an enjoyable, challenging shoot and as usual I experienced nothing but goodwill and kindness from the folk of Delhi.

Method: I used one Nikon SB900 Speedlight with dome diffuser in place, hand-held and attached to my D3S via a SC29 extension cord. I varied my ISO and shutter speeds in response to the falling light levels and to alter the amount of blur and ambient light I wanted to see in the images. I also varied the output of the SB900 – keeping it mainly in minus EV so as not to over-flash the scene.


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