Life in the temple town



temple town

Shiva Moves On – In Gokarna, is a collection of photographs by Harry Peronious, taken over a period of three decades. He came to India in 1986 from Sweden, during the final lap of his specialisation in documentary photography. “I wanted something fascinating to focus on,” writes Harry, and then he found Gokarna and Kudle. “During my stay,” he continues, “I focused on photographing the people and everyday life scenes. I became friends with farmers in Kudle and priests in Gokarna. I also found new friends among barbers, farmers, doctors, teachers and ordinary people. I met a few Western and Indian visitors as well. The book depicts my fascination with Gokarna, and how it evolves and moves on.”

This is a short blurb on the back cover of the book: but for this, there is no information on how Harry landed in Gokarna and why he felt he should come back each time to take photographs of this temple town. The book, has lovely black and white photographs (from his early trips in the Eighties), and also telling colour pictures from the later years. The beach, the temple, the priests and the atmosphere of this temple town is the mainstay of the first part of the book. You find plenty of photographs of priests in the over 100 temples in Gokarna — in relation with God and the devotees. Harry is attracted to faces, and the manner in which they engage with their profession and surroundings. There are stunning pictures of people, capturing their personas as well: alongside is small bits of information on who they are and what they do. The chariot, the festivity, people of various communities playing a role in the Car festival… all of these find a place in the book.

The second part of the book is a record of how Gokarna, over the years, has geared for change. The huge influx of foreign visitors has quietly changed this otherwise laid back town. Upgraded barber shops, restaurants selling coco-cola, ice-cream and sandwich, internet cafes… have become a feature of the new Gokarna. Harry records all this in his book with great curiousity and wonderment. He documents most of these changes through the lives of people: for instance, the transformation of Maneshwara’s family — these agricultural labourers now own a restaurant. Maneshwara, he writes, started a chai shop in 1995. He expanded it to the “German Bakery” in 1996, and now it is called Sunshine Cafe which also provides lodging. Adjacent to Sunshine Cafe is a popular yoga and meditation site, flocked by firangs. The school in Kudle which started in 1990, the small number of students, its growth over the years, Harry’s enduring association with the families and the kids… all this forms the poignant part of the book. Without much ado, Harry captures the metamorphoses of human life, even is small places far from the cry of the madding crowd.


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