This interview was originally published in Issue 13 of NZPhotographer Magazine.
"Sadhu" by Parmeet Sahni
F6.3, ISO 800, 1/30s
Parmeet, tell us about your recent trip to Nepal where you captured this portrait.
I have a great appreciation for street photography and as a travel photographer too, I really wanted to visit a country with a rich culture, vibrant colours, and spiritual energy. Therefore, I took a five day solo trip to Nepal in June of this year with my Canon 6D to celebrate my birthday by doing what I love.
When I was in Nepal, I visited Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Nagarkot, and Sankhu Village. Everywhere I went, I found myself surrounded by a thousand stories, all of which I tried my best to capture through my lens. I took well over three to four thousand photos on this trip, and I was ecstatic to bring them back to share with my family and friends.
So who is the man in the photo?
This man is a Sadhu; a holy man, sage or ascetic. I saw this sadhu outside Pashupatinath Temple, which is located on the banks of Bagmati River about 5km from Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city.
When I asked him if I could take a photo of him, he happily posed for the camera. He talked about experiences he has had with many other tourists too, who were also eager to click photos of him as they walked past.
The sadhus situated around this temple are a common attraction for tourists from around the world and are quite famous on social media, I was able to see faces that I saw in Nepal on Google Images when I got back home!
What's the significance of his pose?
The pose he is making with his hands is called “Gyan Mudra” or “Chin Mudra”. A Mudra is a symbolic or spiritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism.
In Sanskrit, Chin means consciousness and Mudra means seal or gesture, therefore, the Chin Mudra is the gesture of consciousness, it symbolises the union of Self with the universe.
The Gyan Mudra is the hand gesture which is used during meditation and also while practicing breathing exercises during Yoga. Along with the Gyan Mudra, the Sadhu also taught me how to do a few other mudras and the symbolism behind them.
What was happening behind the camera that we can't see?
This image was taken right before sunset. At the temple, the Bagmati Aarti (evening prayer by the riverbank) was about to start. Behind me, thousands of devotees were roaming around the temple. I could hear the prayers from inside Pashupatinath temple, which created an extremely relaxing and peaceful aura.
The Bagmati Aarti is one of the most mesmerizing rituals that take place in Nepal. All devotees collectively pray for all of humanity. This Aarti is famous all around the world and attracts a huge number of tourists each day.
Since returning home to NZ how has this image been received?
This was one of my favourite photos that I took on my trip. When I showed it to people around me, everyone was struck by all the colour in the image. Many were intrigued by the way he was dressed, the way he was posing and the significance of the image. I got a similar reaction to my other work from Nepal too, especially from my colleagues, who encouraged me to display these photos at an exhibition.
I got in touch with the New Zealand Nepalese Association, and was able to hold two rounds of a fundraising photographic exhibition named “The Gathering Of Life: Capturing the Culture & Streets of Nepal” where more than 200 of my photos were displayed.
The event was free entry but prints were for sale and we collected donations. The full sum of money accumulated was for a charity which provides underprivileged children in Nepal study materials. For me, the best feeling was seeing around 300 people from different communities and cultures coming together to support a noble cause and appreciate the photos as well as the country.
Tell us your thoughts on joining our Excio community?
I think joining Excio and becoming a part of such great and esteemed photographers has been one of the best decisions I have made! It is a great platform to express yourself creatively as an artist and connect with others in the field. I was blown away and very inspired by the work of other photographers I have seen on Excio. It’s very interesting to see so many different styles and techniques- there’s always something to learn.
Where can we find you online?