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A PLACE ON THE WAY Situational portaits from Gangasagar Mela Transit Camp Kevin Ryan - Kolkata - January 2013


First published in June 2013 Copyright Kevin Ryan 2013 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, scanning, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Kevin Ryan.


Sagar Island lies on the continental shelf of Bay of Bengal, south of Kolkata. The island is an important place of Hindu pilgrimage. Every year on the day of Makar Sankranti, hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather to take a holy dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal and offer puja in the Kapil Muni Temple. The annual Gangasagar pilgrimage and fair is possibly the second largest congregation of people in India after the holy Kumbha Mela. The Gangasagar Transit Camp on the outskirts of Kolkata is about 100 kilometres away from the final destination for pilgrims on the way. It is a chance for them to rest up, cook, eat, get medical attention, engage with sadhus and fortune tellers and mingle with city dwellers. This magazine, the first in a collection, focuses on a series of portraits, situational, unposed moments. Moments for me, as a photographer and traveller along the Way, when I have seen through the paint, ash and adornments, the attitudes and roles, to meet, with my eyes at least, but more often my heart, the person in front of me.


The Way is the way that we know from cradle to grave There Is no other Way


Some of the Sadhus are very media savvy. A pile of newspapers, with this man’s image in them, lay by his side.


To encounter the simple light of devotion in the eyes of a pilgrim is timeless, with or without a camera


What is in the eyes of a holy person, can vary it seems, by who they are looking at, how they feel towards them and of course, by what the offering might be.


With thanks to my dear friends: Sudipto Chatterjee for giving me good reason to be in Kolkata Suman Mukhopadhyay for hosting me so well Subir Basak for sharing knowledge and so many possibilities Aditi Biswas for alerting me to every nuance and danger To all four of them for reminding me that ‘things here are not always what they seem’.



A Place On The Way