Faith through a fine lens

Phojournalist Madhu Gopal Rao’s earliest memories of growing up in the Telangana region were of witnessing its many vibrant festivals and the passionate fervour of the devotees. The many colours, sounds and the drama in the proceedings remained etched in his mind forever. It inspired his latest exhibition, Faces of Faith — Fairs and Festivals of Telangana, which includes 43 photographs that explore the elements of belief and faith as indispensable elements in the day-to-day life of Telangana.

Women lead in festival celebrations

Presently located in Andhra Pradesh, the region has been abuzz with political activities over several decades that seek to create a new state of Telangana. In the process, it has hogged headlines for the numerous student suicides that aim to draw attention to the demand for a separate state.

But for Rao, the region presented a fascinating contrast in its piety and sacred faith in that offers the people solace and an opportunity to celebrate festivities despite the gloom and doom. He has spent the last eight years trying to document the many Jataras and festivals that are celebrated in the Telangana region. 

About the theme, Rao says, “Folk festivals are unique as they are mostly celebrated by women and are typical to the region. The worship is of the village goddesses and takes place after dark. There is a huge gathering of villagers and each festival has a legend.”

Rao adds that having being born and brought up in the region he felt a need to document and preserve the rituals and the festivities for the coming generations. “The customs and traditions are in a state of flux and undergoing transformation. There is a lot of change, hence this visual documentation is required, especially as the younger generation isn’t too keen to sustain the tradition,” he believes. Through the images, Rao also reflects the region’s socio-economic condition and the lifestyle. “The region is special because despite the Telangana issue being in the backdrop for over 60 years and the region witnessing over 800 student suicides, people celebrate, passsionately. During the season of festivals (January to April as well as myriad festivals through the year), they put the past behind and celebrate with fervour.”

Rao has dedicated his series of photographs to known and unknown ‘Gods’, who are worshipped in this region. A graduate in photography from College of Fine Arts, JNT University, Hyderabad, he is presently working on a book on Kakateeya architecture. The exhibition will also include a photo talk on documentary photography by Javed Iqbal on January 5 (6 pm to 8 pm).

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