SET IN SAND.
ACHINKARA fawn lies in a cloth cradle as two Bishnoi women sit by the doorway of their hut and tend to it. Elsewhere, a shepherd takes a mouthful of water and transfers it into the mouth of each of his lambs in turn, so that not a drop is wasted in the Great Indian Desert. In his latest exhibition titled Rajasthan: Under the Desert Sky', photographer Rajesh Bedi's lens zooms on the unseen Rajasthan, and makes the state show its true colours.
When the first rays of dawn light up the mud- baked, thatched huts of the Bhil tribals, a fakir offers his prayers atop hill overlooking Ajmer, Bedi clicks his camera from aboard a hot air balloon to show how rich the hues of the desert are. Aerial shots of cattle grazing on the sand dunes, deserted hamlets and Abhaneri's ninth century Chand Baori ( stepwell) are out of the ordinary. As are his snapshots of a school of catfish in the Gadsisar Lake of Jaisalmer, a sand boa fighting a deadly battle with a spiny- tailed lizard in The Desert National Park, a magnificent female ghariyal basking in the sun by the Chambal river and the demoiselle cranes that have flown all the way from Mongolia and Eurasia.
A wildlife photographer at heart, Bedi reminds us how Rajasthan's biodiversity boasts of more than just blackbucks and chinkaras.
His observant eyes guide us beyond the sandstone forts and havelis, the kalbelia dancers and the royal families and introduce us to the everyday culture and traditions of the common folk.
" For me, Rajasthan represents the promise of a culture that contains many complexities and a charismatic character", says the veteran photographer.
" One cannot help but be overwhelmed by the way local communities protect the flora and fauna of the state", he admits. The Bishnois, who sustain on agriculture and live by the teachings of Guru Jambheshwar, do not hestitate to give up their life to protect the wildlife. A rare example of universal motherhood is captured in his photograph of a young Bishnoi woman in Jodhpur district, offering suckle to a young chinkara and her own child at the same time.
They say the camera cannot lie.
Bedi's camera does more than just tell the truth. Be it his previous collection of images from the mystic world of sadhus at the Kumbh mela or the sandy terrains of India's vast desert state, his photographs go the extra mile to alter the way we see and open our eyes to new realities.
' Rajasthan: Under the Desert Sky' is on till August 13 at the Visual Arts Gallery, IHC. Bedi guides us beyond the sandstone forts, kalbelia dancers and the royal families to the everyday culture of the common folk
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