By Raminder Pal Singh
Each year, the birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh, is celebrated in Amritsar in the state of Punjab, Northwest India. The Golden Temple of Amritsar is the holiest of Sikh places in the world. The religious procession is carried out on the eve of the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who was the tenth Sikh Guru and initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. The procession is carried out in many parts of India as well but holds special significance in the state of Punjab where the population of the Sikhs is bigger.
This year marked the 351st birth anniversary of Sri Guru Gobind Singh. Sikh devotees carry the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs, in a special golden palanquin from inside the Golden Temple premises.
Then a religious procession starts from the streets outside the Golden Temple in which school children and devotees take part. Devotees sing Sikh religious hymns and children from different schools, wearing traditional, religious and school uniforms take part in the procession as it passes through the streets.
Because I have shot these kinds of processions many a time, every time at the back of my mind I am led by this thought how to shoot the occasion differently this time. I try to avoid cliched shots and shoot from angles which are not so common or at least which differ from what I had captured before.
For instance in above image, I preferred to take the shot from behind the children as the circular metal ‘Chakkar’ they wore on their turbans, to me kind of looked like halos over their heads.
In this one, I was trying slow shutter speed to go with the fast motion of the girl performing Gatka. Luckily her face came out to be still whereas there’s kind of a blurred effect in the backdrop because of slow shutter speed.
Some Sikh groups who have trained themselves, exhibiting their skills with various weapons like swords, Chakar, sticks etc. as they perform Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art. The Sikh martial art was very popular during the era of Guru Gobind Singh and still holds a very important place in Sikh culture and religion.
While shooting them this time, I got hit by a sword on my hand while a group of students were playing Gatka at the religious procession. While I was shooting, they suddenly became a bit more “aggressive”, trying to outscore the opponent and in the haste, they unintentionally hit my hand. (they didn’t even notice that someone was hit). Thankfully, it was just a minor cut and some bruises.
My favorite shot in the series, however, is this:
The innocence on their faces was something so adorable and divine.
People usually are happy when I point my camera towards them during such events. Little kids are happy and when sometimes I show them their pictures after taking them, their faces are all smiles.
The atmosphere in general is obviously religious with sounds coming from different speakers playing Sikh religious hymns. It’s a happy atmosphere altogether.