Through the lens: Hampi’s rich heritage

Published on Sep 11, 2022 03:53 PM IST

Delhi-based photographer Manoj Arora’s frames capture his escapades at Karnataka’s Hampi, which stands still in time. He feels photographing it is like “touching history”, and curator Uma Nair proves it right by bringing together 60 photos that exude the rich art and architecture possessed by this ancient city.

The Celestial Flute Player showing Lord Krishna is one among the 60 photographs in the exhibition, Rediscover Hampi.
The Celestial Flute Player showing Lord Krishna is one among the 60 photographs in the exhibition, Rediscover Hampi.
ByHenna Rakheja, New Delhi

When approaching a heritage site like Hampi in Karnataka, as a photographer, some might feel overwhelmed trying to find a new perspective of a place so well-documented. But that’s not how photographer Manoj Arora approached this aesthetically marvellous city, when he picked up his camera and visited it in February this year. “So many places were on my radar earlier and they still are, but then Covid hit. I was waiting for the pandemic to subside and the site to reopen after which I took off to Hampi. I had visited it almost a decade back and since then always wanted to capture it through my photographs. I know it has been covered time and again, but then, there’s nothing in any field that has not been done before. That’s my perspective! I wanted to show the world, how I see Hampi,” says Arora.

His debut solo show, Rediscover Hampi, will explore the many facets of the city in 60 frames that will display the different calibrations of light, as it falls on the rich art and architecture of the city. Arora says, “I chose Hampi because it has so much richness in its past. The Virupaksha Temple, which is probably the oldest temple functional now, is a great example of this. So photographing it is like touching history. I kept the pictures quite rustic and let the beauty of this magical place speak for itself.”

The photographs on display attempt to transport the viewers to the city of Hampi in Karnataka.
The photographs on display attempt to transport the viewers to the city of Hampi in Karnataka.

Alongside capturing the carvings of gods and goddesses on the walls, such as that of Krishna in The Celestial Flute Player, the lensman explored many pillared halls. Then came his encounter with Lakshmi, the elephant in The Virupaksha Temple, which he cherishes till date. “The elephant was posing for me,” exclaims Arora, recalling those moments, and adds, “This one is a very playful animal, and she went from one pillar to another, although tied to its place, as if it identified the camera in my hand. It continued to show its mischief as I photographed it!”

The Virupaksha Temple is where the photographer met and clicked pictures of Lakshmi, the elephant.
The Virupaksha Temple is where the photographer met and clicked pictures of Lakshmi, the elephant.

Two of this elephant’s photos will welcome the viewers at the entrance of the gallery. “That is done to tell people that elephant is a precious animal and is meant to be treated with reverence,” explains Uma Nair, curator of the show, adding, “The elephant at this temple seemed happy. So when the animate and the inanimate, that is manushya aur prakriti (man and nature), both live in harmony, everything grows... I’m a lover of heritage, too. That’s the reason why I agreed to curate this show. I’m a great believer in the restoration of temples, and many idols of our gods and goddesses are have been stolen are sitting in museums abroad, which is so sad. Through this exhibition, we are looking at art belonging to the Vedic times and get a glimpse of the medieval masters who were gifted people as they would sit and create the gods and goddesses. Think of the vision of the man who created a city that was world class. Making a city that’s so beautiful is another kind of ambition. This is Indian heritage.”

Catch It Live

What: Rediscover Hampi

Where: Main Art Gallery, Bikaner House, Pandara Road, near India Gate

When: September 14 to 22

Timing: 11am to 8pm

Nearest Metro Station: Khan Market on the Violet Line

Author tweets @HennaRakheja

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