Sunday, 18 September 2011

Picturing the strength of Holla Mohalla


A photo exhibit captures the formidable Sikh spirit at Hola Mohalla celebrations.

The strength and bravery of the Sikh army that the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, had aimed to demonstrate on Hola Mohalla can be seen annually at Anandpur Sahib. With the display of the martial arts being so unique, an Ambalabased photographer, Maninder Singh Sodhi decided to capture the same on his lens for people to marvel long after the festivities end. The quintessential Sikh spirit can be seen through more than 40 images, at the ongoing exhibition at Alliance Française, Sector 36, Chandigarh. Sodhi, who's associated himself with the festival for the last 13 years, feels a sense of satisfaction on showing the grand celebrations. Says the 48-yearold photographer, “The idea behind this exhibition is not to promote any religious belief, but to celebrate the country's composite culture.“ Sodhi says that it's because Hola Mohalla is one of the biggest festivals in India and one that welcomes visitors from all sections of the society, that he feels the need to share the grandeur presented on the day.

The magnificent images that show sword-wielding warriors, bare horseback-riders, tent-pegging stunts and other war-like sports in a devotional environment cannot be missed.

Sodhi, who first exhibited the photographs of the festival in Washington DC, US in 1999, also runs a family business in Ambala. Yet, he could never deviate from how spiritually uplifted he felt after photographing the event. He has also produced a short documentary on the subject, titled, The Spirit of Hola Mohalla, which was screened at The Spinning Wheel Film Festival in Toronto in 2009, and later at the Jaipur International Film Festival in 2010. The exhibition has also been shown in Canada in 2003. Sodhi's love for photography was nurtured by his father who also taught him its nuances. Believing that his photographic vision is clear, he says, “A picture should be worth a thousand words. It should be able to tell a story and must generate some curiosity in the viewer's mind.“

The exhibition in Chandigarh, Sodhi says, is an extensive work on the festival and makes him feel constantly motivated to share his experiences with a larger audience. Next, he plans to take his works to other destinations in India.

On till September 26 at Alliance Française, Sector 36 .

Hindustan Times, Sept 18th 2011.

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