Monday, June 24, 2013

Sital Sasthi - The Carnival of Sambalpur


Sital_Sasthi_Lord_Shiva_float

The carnival of Sital Sasthi is inarguably the most famous festival of Sambalpur, and Western Odisha by extension. A tradition more than 400 years old, today it draws in over a million people. Sital Sasthi is annually held on the sixth day of the bright fortnight of Jyestha. It marks the end of a parched summer season, the scorching heat giving way to cool monsoon showers. Often cited as the biggest carnival in Western Odisha, Sital Sasthi is the celebration of the the celestial wedding of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. Almost all the Shiva temples in the city conduct this divine marriage ceremony but the prominent ones include the Brahmapura temple of Nandapara, Lokanatha Baba temple of Jhaduapara and Jageswara Baba temple of Modipara, the first two have been organizing the festival for centuries.

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The divine wedding is performed with all the rites observed in an Odia marriage making it an interesting blend of human and divine rituals. Exactly one month before the wedding Thala Utha is performed, a ritual in which the names of the couple to perform the role of the bride's parents are announced. The five-day festivities begin with Patar Pendi during which the parents of the groom send a formal marriage proposal to the parents of the prospective bride. The groom's party includes his father and seven others who are known as the Sapta Rishi (seven learned men). The Saptarishi are responsible for describing the nature and good characteristics of the groom to the parents of the bride-to-be and convince them to approve the proposal. The father of the groom gives a bundle of Sal leaves (and thus the name Patarpendi) to the prospective in-laws symbolizing the engagement of the two deities.

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Wedding invites are dispatched with Lord Narasimha to all the deities in the locality, this ritual being called Nrusingha Niuta. The common man also gets an invite. On the day of the wedding, Lord Shiva arrives at the bride's house in a late-night traditional Odia barajatri procession. Led by Lord Hanuman, the procession is a glittering parade of deities, their temple servitors and local residents accompanied by traditional music from gongs, conchs and trumpets and spectacular fireworks. The in-laws of Lord Shiva take pride in organizing the wedding ceremony with meticulous planning just as any parents would at their daughter’s wedding. The kanyadan of Goddess Parvati performed by her parents is considered a big privilege.

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After the marriage ceremony, the newly weds make a journey around town called Nagara Parikrama. The breathtaking finale of the festival is the famous carnival of Sital Sashti. The deities, decked up in richly decorated backgrounds called Parbah, are carried around the city on motorized floats. At crossroads and important places the procession halts and there is extravagant display of fireworks, dancing, drumming and various kinds of merry-making. The procession can extend to almost 5 km.

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Close to seven thousand artists from different parts of the country participate in the festivities and showcase their mesmerizing allegorical pageantry in the carnival. Hoards of elaborately costumed dancers parade the streets, some on floats while the others on foot. The performances include traditional dance forms like Bihu from Assam, Gidda from Punjab, Mahadi and Jhumer from Chattisgarh, several local flavours like Ghumra, Dusavatar, Samprada, Dulduli, Ghoda nacha, Bagha nacha, etc as well as modern dance troupes from Kolkata and Raipur. Musicians playing traditional musical instruments as well as modern songs add to the festive environment. Other forms of entertainment include display of martial arts, gymnastics, sword skills, doll dance, etc.

Sital_Sasthi_Bollywood_Dance_Girl

The floats showcasing modern dances with mostly female artists dancing to the beats of popular Bollywood songs is usually the epicenter of the entertainment for the young crowd. Thousands of revellers throng the streets to witness this extravaganza of colour, music and fanfare. It isn't just the performers who get into the spirit of the festivities as the crowd also joins in with equal enthusiasm.

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It is said that one gets atonement from all sins if they see the Gods as part of this procession. This draws in lots of devotees whose zeal is undeterred by the scorching heat. The carnival is a part of the culture, the rhythm, the aesthetic language of the region. Following the fiery climax, the curtains come down with the Gods returning to their respective temples.

Sital_Sasthi_crowd_street_float

135 comments:

  1. Wow...Amazing and colorful photos !!

    Well done !!

    Greetings from Germany

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    1. Thank you Timur. I hope you have a fantastic weekend!

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  2. Your post made me want to look up more about the history of the festival, which I found. You've done a great job capturing the festivities. It's always better when the crowd gets involved in a celebration too! It looks like most everyone is having a great time!

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    1. I agree its lot more fun when everyone gets involved with equal enthusiasm. It's a fantastic festival and quite a lot of fun.

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  3. This is an astounding festival, your photos bring it to life on this end. Amazing shots, and astounding rituals. A million people, wow! There's that many people residing in my city.

    Have a wonderful week!

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    1. The total number of residents of Sambalpur is close to 1.75 million. But a lot of people are drawn in by the festival. Thanks for stopping by.

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    2. No worries, I enjoy stopping in when time permits and I have an internet connection. You have some amazing shots and I love traveling the world through others lenses, saves me a lot in airfare! lol I'm kidding, I would much rather travel the world over and experience different cultures. For now though I appreciate posts such as this, not only is your post educational, it's colorful and as they say... seeing is believing (seeing brings the conversation to life for me).

      Have a wonderful weekend Ramakant! Cheers.

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  4. Love the colours...awesome!

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  5. This is very impressive! I think my favorite are all the drums, they are all beautiful in color and workmanship!!

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    1. There were multiple varieties of drums with lovely workmanship with artistic touches. I was able to only post a few of them. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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  6. Beautiful festival taken by you, fantastic.

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    1. It's a very beautiful event indeed. Thank you for stopping by.

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  7. your carnevals are really colorful. :)

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    1. Yes. It's a very colourful affair. Thanks for stopping by.

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  8. The beauty of these festive photos is really awesome! Best regards!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and taking some time out to such a sweet comment :)

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  9. What a fascinating festival. But your pictures! The colors in them are so vibrant, they fairly leap off the page. Your photos put us right in the middle of the festival. Just beautiful.

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    1. Thank you for the lovely words. I am glad you felt part of the festival :)

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  10. How wonderful it must have been to be there, and your photographs are beautiful.
    Thank you for taking us along with you!

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you so much for the kind words.

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  11. looks like a huge carnival and celebration!

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    1. It is huge in these parts. May not be as huge as the one in Rio :)

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  12. What an awesome festival, you've captured the color and motion very well.

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    1. Thank you Al for the kind words. Appreciate you dropping by.

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  13. Replies
    1. It's a beautiful carnival. I tried to capture the essence as best I could.

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  14. Too grand, too colorful and too noisy for people from the South! Their enthusiasm is evident from the pics. I wish festivals were more about joy than rituals, like this.

    Destination Infinity

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    1. I guess in terms of boisterousness it beats most South Indian celebrations though I think there is a festival in Bangalore related to Yakshas which is somewhat noisy. I agree festivals should be to celebrate joy rather than a compulsion of rituals.

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  15. colorful festival photos... nice write-up...

    interesting festival...

    thanks

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    1. I am happy you enjoyed write-up about Sital-Sasthi festival. Thanks for stopping by.

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  16. wow! the colour, sound, and sights of this carnaval must be spectactular! so many people and so much going on! wow!
    Have a great week, and thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday.

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    1. It was indeed a spectacular event. Thanks for stopping by.

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  17. Love all the colors of this beautiful festival! I always enjoy your posts!

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    1. And I am glad to have readers like you :) Glad you found the post enjoyable.

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  18. Wow, love the way locals are dressed. Absolutely amazing! So colourful!

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    1. Quite colorful indeed. Not all artists are locals. We have artists gathering from all parts of the country for this event.

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  19. Replies
    1. Glad you liked the pictures in the post :)

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  20. Great shots and an interesting post.

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    1. Nice of you to drop by. Thanks for the lovely comment.

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  21. This looks like an amazing festival.

    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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    1. It is a much awaiting festival every year. Quite amazing to be a part of.

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  22. Replies
    1. Thank you for stopping by and taking time for a lovely comment.

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  23. Replies
    1. The environment is pretty charged up during Sital-Shasti :) Thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice comment.

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  24. Fantastic colors and decorations, great images!

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    1. The few pictures I have been able to post just give an indication of the multitude of colours that was present during the carnival. Thank you for your lovely comment.

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  25. Wow! That is very colorful and so much of crowd! I would love to attend something like that but the crowd scares me!

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    1. I am quite at home in crowds. So its not a problem for me. It's quite fun. I would be more scared hiking down a canyon by myself in search of waterfalls. 127 hrs is still quite fresh in my memory :)

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  26. You've captured the rich color and action in your pictures, and the meaning of it all in your words. Thank you for sharing this wonderful festival with us.

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post and liked the pictures. Thanks for leaving a nice comment :)

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  27. Such vibrant captures!! Awesome!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a sweet comment.

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  28. Wonderful coverage of festival. The shots are colorful and full of life.

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    1. Thank you Rajesh for appreciating the pictures.

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  29. wow ..what culture..I love everything traditional..

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    1. Rich culture and tradition does have its attraction :)
      Thanks for stopping by.

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  30. Replies
    1. Quite colourful indeed. Thanks for stopping by.

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  31. Colorful and enchanting. Lovely pics

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    1. Glad you liked the post. Thanks for a lovely comment.

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  32. Well done!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  33. Replies
    1. It's a very boisterous event, and quite colourful. Thanks for stopping by.

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  34. What an amazing sounding festival - so many fascinating traditions, and wow, the colors and the pageantry! It must be incredible to see.

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    1. It is quite an incredible experience. Glad you enjoyed the post :)

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  35. Thank you for sharing these, they are very festive and colorful.

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    1. Glad you liked the post. Thanks for leaving a wonderful comment :)

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  36. Amazing atmosphere. People have a good mood. It's nice to celebrate and respect the traditions.

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    1. I agree its always good to respect traditions. Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment.

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  37. It is a fascinating festival. I watched excerpts of it in TV.

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    1. It is quite fascinating. I am told we have Sital-Sasthi in Lingaraj Temple as well though I am yet to be part of such a celebration.

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  38. I love the energy and colors! What an incredible event!

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    1. It's quite a fun event as well. Thanks for stopping by.

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  39. This is very interesting and your photos are wonderful - exciting, filled with energy and color! I've not heard of this festival, but in the States we just don't learn about the traditions of other countries which is to our discredit.

    Thank you for visiting our blog and your nice comment!

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    1. I am glad you found the information interesting. Probably cultural exchange programs may help bridge the gap. Nice of you to drop by and leave a nice comment.

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  40. Wonderful shots! This looks like a fabulous festival, so rich and colorful, filled with meaning and deep culture.

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    1. It is a lovely festival and quite well known in these parts. Glad you liked the pictures. Thanks for leaving such a sweet comment.

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  41. how interesting!
    love reading about different cultures and traditions.
    looks like an awesome festival.
    great shots!

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post and found the festival interesting. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a wonderful comment.

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  42. Informative post!
    The images are good too :)

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    1. Glad you liked the pictures and found the post interesting. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a nice comment.

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  43. Like the way each team has an uniform sort of thing. Like their enthusiasm and gusto.

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    1. Each of the group of dancers were attired in their distinctive clothes. That made the event very colourful.

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  44. I love all the cheerful colours!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a lovely comment.

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  45. fantastic captures...lovely knowing about the interesting traditions and culture of this place...thanks for sharing:)

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    1. Thank you Kalyan for appreciating the pictures. Glad you enjoyed reading about the festivities :)

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  46. What a festival! The marriage of lords celebrated with fervor. Beautiful shots.

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    1. It is a fantastic environment. Thank you for stopping by.

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  47. Loved learning about this! Thank you for showing the crowd scenes too..they made me see what it would be like to be there for this amazing ceremony and procession.

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    1. Glad you liked the post Sallie. It's truly an amazing festival.

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  48. Such a spectacular carnival, I felt like being a part of this wonderful tradition through your pictures and words. Amazing documentation, many thanks for sharing :)

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    1. I am glad you had a good time going through the post. Thanks for stopping by.

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  49. Wow so colourful pictures and nice insights from you. So much involvement!

    www.volatilespirits.com

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    1. Thank you Anupama. The success of the carnival depends on crowd participation and involvement in the various events.

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  50. You have portrayed the incredible culture of Incredible India nicely... Its good to know the background history of the festival ( Carnival )

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    1. Good you liked that. Guess you should have some memories of Sital Sasthi :)

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    2. How can I forget that ...All the coins have two faces ...:-) :-)

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    3. Seems your US stint is making you quite the philosopher :)

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  51. Interesting compilation..always as pleasure to learn about a different culture and what better way is there than to see it through someone's lens making you feel like you too were a part of it! :)

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  52. colorful and vibrant and diverse :)

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  53. Loud and colourful. Its very lively, worth a vacation!!

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    1. You should plan a trip to Sambalpur sometime during Sital Sasthi. It's quite an amazing experience.

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  54. Sharp, bright and breathtaking captures. Interesting info too.

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    1. Thank you Alka. Glad you liked the post.

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  55. Wish I was there with you to enjoy the carnival.. You did a great job my friend..

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    1. Arey koi nai. Kabhi summer mein Sambalpur ka plan karna.

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  56. A glimpse of pristine culture and tradition. just a powerful post.

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  57. I so would love to be able to join a festival like this. I love you colorful photos they make me feel a little bit like I was there.

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    1. You should plan an India visit sometime. There are many such celebrations in different parts of the country at different times of the year.

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  58. interesting narration and photographs....

    http://www.myunfinishedlife.com

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  59. Una maravilla de reportage...un abrazo desde Murcia...

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  60. Wow, the colors are amazing. Some great photos here. I especially like the first one and the one of the couple dancing. How do you keep track of all the gods, festivals, temples, etc. It's so confusing to someone not born into such a culture! :)

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    1. Thank you Lowell for stopping by. In India, we have a conglomerate of different religions, different cultures, different languages. There is probably some festival happening in some part of the country or the other on almost every day of the year. For Hindus, there are 330 millions gods and goddesses. There are numerous temples in all parts of the country dedicated to one or more of these deities.

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  61. I absolutely love the colours! Your photos are great.

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    1. Thank you Linda. Appreciate your kind comment.

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  62. Replies
    1. It's my hometown. I wouldn't want to let go of a chance to show it in its full splendor :)

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