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Before I fully got into travel photography, I was a professional triathlete. Back then, I was already interested in documentary programmes and photography books about different countries around the world. I was inspired by the vibrant cultures and traditions in each region, and one country really caught my eye—India. With excitement and wonder, I immediately set off on my very first travel photography trip there.

First Travel Photography Trip to India

New Delhi

In New Delhi, I spent most of my time wandering around neighbourhoods and cities, completely engrossed in capturing street photography. It just so happened to be Republic Day in India when I landed, creating the perfect chance for me to photograph the traditional celebrations. I really enjoyed the liveliness in New Delhi and spent a few days there, absorbed in doing some travel photography.

Kumbh Mela

After New Delhi, I headed to Allahabad just in time for Kumbh Mela. Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage where Hindus come together to bathe in a holy river. They believe that the water from these holy rivers are sacred and have the ability to wash away one’s sins. Kumbh Mela has an extensive history, and is a world-famous event. In the year that I went (2019), a whopping 150 million pilgrims showed up!

Before this trip, my understanding of large crowds was limited to lunch hour rush in Singaporean food courts. Being part of the 30 million-strong Kumbh Mela crowd was truly a memorable experience for me. Pilgrims bathed in holy river water while performers livened up the place. I also saw many merchants selling souvenirs and street food. It was heartwarming to see such a large community band together for the same purpose, not unlike the rivers meeting at a confluence. I found it very poetic!

As I watched mankind celebrate such a strong connection with mother nature, I was just happy to be a part of it all. This experience really ignited my passion for travel photography. I wanted to be able to see and document it all!

Varanasi

After Kumbh Mela, I travelled to India’s spiritual capital—Varanasi. I wanted to stay longer, but had to cut my trip short for a shoot in Sri Lanka.

It was a beautiful city, but I think I may have visited at the wrong time. Locals frequently approached me for money, and many merchants tried to hard sell me things. Because Varanasi was relatively close to the Kumbh Mela site that year, I believe the locals were just trying to take the chance to make some money. But this definitely made me feel like I did not experience the authentic Varanasi. I would love to return again soon to confirm this!

With that, my very first trip to India came to an end. It was fulfilling, and I learned more than books could ever teach me. After such a positive experience, I decided to explore India once again in 2020. In order to expand my worldview, I made plans to travel to other places in India that were new to me.

Second Travel Photography Trip to India

Pushkar

The first stop of my second trip was Pushkar, Rajasthan, where I attended the annual Pushkar Camel Fair. It is a famous festival among both locals and tourists. The original purpose of the fair was for camel and cattle traders to gather during Kartik Purnima—the Hindu full moon festival. Times have since changed, and the modern day Pushkar Camel Fair now welcomes all.

Camels are still commonly seen at the Pushkar Camel Fair. I was amazed to see them draped in colourful fabric and decorated with henna. The locals at the fair were also stylishly dressed—men wore turbans and the women wore traditional scarves. Everything about the festival was vibrant and interesting. No wonder it was so popular!

Merchants sold food and drinks, and performers kept festival-goers entertained. I watched some horse dancing and rope walking. Some performers were only children, already learning how to make the most of the annual festival.

I also saw a massive turnout of photographers there. Because of this, taking good shots with no photographers in the background was no easy feat. I truly believe that there might have been more photographers than camels there!

After the fair, I headed back at my hostel and had the luck of meeting many friendly local photographers, who were also there for the Pushkar Camel Fair. We had insightful conversations about travel photography. I definitely have no regrets attending such a special festival and documenting the experience alongside so many other talented photographers.

The Kalbelia

Shortly after, I came across a group of people called the Kalbelia Gypsies. They are snake handler nomads with an enthralling traditional dance and song. Their main source of income comes from performing for tourists and locals.

Among them, I met married couple Santosh and Veeram and their six children. Santosh kindly offered to do henna on my hands and brought me to her camp to meet her family. Veeram spoke very basic conversational English, but he was very capable and financially supported his tribe in different ways.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has taken a huge hit on their living conditions. With a lack of tourists coming to visit, their main source of income was gravely affected. I found this concerning as their culture is precious and needs to be preserved. I truly hope that things get better for them soon.

Jodhpur: The Blue City

Jodhpur, Rajasthan was my next destination. It is famous for its beautiful cityscape of palaces, temples and forts, and is a hot travel photography destination. Because of this, I was really looking forward to getting there.

The Blue City got its name from the blue-painted old houses in the area. These houses were painted blue to signify wealth and prestige, and also to reflect heat.

In Jodhpur, I resided at the Toorji Ka Jhalra and woke up early for a morning stroll. While basking in the peacefulness of dawn, I stumbled upon the Jaswant Thada memorial, from which the beautiful Mehrangarh Fort could be seen. Since its construction in 1459, the fort’s architecture remains iconic, attracting countless flocks of visitors. Not only did it feature unique architecture, it also boasted a museum, which I visited to learn more about India.

Exploring the Blue City ended up being one of the highlights of my second travel photography trip to India. Jodhpur’s residents were friendly and hospitable. Hence, I easily got their permission to photograph the local lifestyle through their open windows. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Jodhpur and learned a lot in my short time there.

Jaipur: The Pink City

The last stop of my trip was the capital of Rajasthan: Jaipur. The airport is located in this city, making it highly accessible. This has resulted in Jaipur becoming a tourist hotspot. The Pink City, like the Blue City, got its name from the pink-painted walls of its buildings. As pink was symbolic of royalty, the buildings of Jaipur were painted pink long ago to welcome the arrival of Queen Victoria. I found the people of Jaipur to be as hospitable as those of Jodhpur. They were always happy to pose for a picture.

There, I also got to see the Jal Mahal, a spectacular palace set on a lake. The scenery was stunning, and I couldn’t help myself from taking some pictures! Later, I headed to Amber Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Jaipur. The age-old fort is an iconic landmark, and a must-visit spot in Jaipur.

I went to many places in Jaipur, but the highlight of my time there has to be the Hawa Mahal—a photogenic palace built from red and pink sandstone. Its distinct appearance makes it a popular travel photography spot for Instagrammers, bloggers, and professional photographers.

Concluding Thoughts on Travel Photography in India

On both of my trips, I made it a point to get around in India via public transport and stayed in hostels, where I could conveniently meet locals and other photographers in the area. This way, I was guaranteed exposure to the most authentic possible life and routine in India.

My travel photography trips to India were indeed enriching and valuable, both for my career, as well as my personal growth. I got to take beautiful pictures while learning about the world—how cool is that?

India is a fascinating country that is home to many cultures and historical sites. Its wealth of history makes it a fantastic travel photography spot to visit. I highly recommend exploring India, even if you are not a photographer. There is something there for everyone!

You can learn more about my travel photography here.

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