Dubki – Performances in Contact with the Ganges by Santasil Mallik

Editor Shenyah Webb, Photography, January 30th, 2019

"...emotions, and body movements emerged when individuals confronted the river..."

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A photo essay by Santasil Mallik

+ + +

From the photographer:

Wrapped in a heavy windcheater, as I dipped my bare feet into the crystal waters of the Ganges they went numb in seconds. The biting December winds blowing around me at Haridwar mocked the afternoon sun that shone over the sacred town, but the scene at Har Ki Pauri, the largest ghat in Haridwar, looked no less like a beach on a fine English summer day. Every day thousands of devotees from various parts of the country gather at this ghat, where Lord Shiva stepped upon during the Vedic age, to take their much-anticipated dip (Hindi: dubki) in the river. According to mythological accounts in Hinduism, the waters of the Ganges can refurbish one’s lost energy (Atma-shakti) caused by negative actions; this, if not similar, is close to the idea of purging one’s sins. On another front, people are also aware of the scientific studies and historical records that have demonstrated the self-cleaning and anti-bacterial properties of the river near its source.

A range of unexpected activities, emotions, and body movements emerged when individuals confronted the river in all its turbulence and spiritual density. I started photographing various people at that precise moment of their decisive dubkis into the water. An infant child immediately burst out crying as her father dipped her into the bone-chilling water for a purification ceremony, muscle-flexing tourists failingly grappled with the flow and coldness of the river, some of them hung on to fixated chains and railings while others descended slowly with silent prayers on their lips. Many Dalit children, on the other hand, curiously dived deep into the river to fish for coins and brass utensils thrown by devotees.

The photographs reflect the conviction, determination, and bodily dispositions that accompanied the people as they took their first dubkis in the river. After a week of photographing the same phenomenon, I began to notice a common bodily habitus that guides the dubkis, as well as remarkable exceptions in an individual’s approach towards the Ganges. It is impossible to locate the thoughts and intentions working at the precise moment of taking the dive; several factors traversing across personal, social, religious, and even physical circumstances dictate the way they dive into the river. Are they taking dubkis for the atonement of some guilty past? Are they looking for something underwater that might make their lives better? Or are they just enjoying an adventurous bath with their friends? As an onlooker, one can at most revere those specific performances that arose due to their interactions with the river. These photographs are a testimony to those ephemeral moments of contact.

+ + +

+ + +

Santasil Mallik is a graduate in English Literature, but he is more interested in exploring the aspects of visuality in literary representation. Apart from writing on films and photography, he is also a practitioner who is yet to find the kernel that drives him to photography as such. His photographs and writings have appeared on several platforms such as National Geographic, Private Photo Review, Bright Lights Film Journal, F-Stop Magazine, and Entropy Magazine. He lives and works in Calcutta, India.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Shenyah Webb

Shenyah Webb is a Portland-based visual artist and musician. She has been with NAILED Magazine since its inception in 2012 and has served as the Arts Editor and a Contributing Editor since its launch in 2013. A Detroit native, she attended The College for Creative Studies, where she focused on Fine Art and Industrial Design. She is currently enrolled in a Somatic Expressive Arts Education and Therapy training program, studying under Lanie Bergin. You can learn more about Shenyah here. (Shenyah.com)