Everybody knows the Taj Mahal, although no more than a handful know that Shah Jahan’s inspiration came from Bijapur! The Ibrahim Rauza is the tomb of Ibrahim Adil Shah and dates back to the 16th century AD.
When Shah Jahan decided to build Mumtaz Mahal a mausoleum, he sent his artisans out on their camels to take note of beautiful monuments across the country. When they returned, he was so intrigued by the Ibrahim Rauza that he travelled there himself and fell completely in love with it.
In Bidar, the craftsmen make their ‘black metal magic’, Bidriware, as it is known. They began in the 14th Century CE, during the rule of the Bahamani Sultans. They use an alloy of copper and zinc, which is manufactured by casting.
The moten metal is poured into a mould made from soil made malleable with castor oil and resin. The craftsmen, who still don’t use any sophisticated equipment, say their alloy is given its ‘undying shine’ because it is polished with a special kind of clay.
This soil is found only inside the Bidar fort and the craftsmen identify it by tasting it! It was tidbits like these that Hema Narayan set out to find, with a team of five other photographers Anita Bora, Raghavendra KS, Renith Valsaraj, Sabir Ahmed and Venkatesh Katta all from IT backgrounds.
“It actually started with a cliche,” joked Hema, who came up with the idea nearly four years ago. “I was having coffee with a friend, Anand Gupta and we happened to be discussing photography.
That’s when I thought about Karnataka, which is so rich in culture and heritage, but is hardly talked about.” Their exhibition, Prathibimba, is on display at Chitra Kala Parishath this weekend.
Narayan got in touch with a group of photographers, who were all intensely interested in the project. They gave themselves a year's time to explore the nooks and crannies of Karnataka, in the hope of publishing a book of photographs.
“We found out, quite quickly, that publishing a book isn’t so easy,’ remarked Anita Bora, who is one of the photographers on the project.“My friend Anand helped us get permission from the Archaeological Survey of India,” said Narayan, who quit her job to become a full time photojournalist.
“That gave us special access to a lot of monuments.” People go all the way to Rome to see Renaissance art and say Goa is home to the best beaches. “That’s not true, though. The Panambur beaches actually have those fabled golden sands and crystalline waters and they are practically untouched by humanity.”
There were challenges along the way, of course. They decided to travel in twos and threes, to make scheduling easier. “We have to time it according to the weather and the festivals,” explained Narayan. “We also have our jobs and families to take care of; we all gave our weekends and our personal lives to do this.”
About 50 pictures are on display. “We picked out a few for the exhibition, but we have thousands ore,” said Narayan, adding with a laugh, “If the Tourism department ever needs any material, they don’t have to look too far!”