I read about this place in the history books and about the massacre at near-by Jallianwala Bagh at the hands of Brigadier-General Dyer. The drive up to Amritsar from Delhi was a long and brutal one, but that’s another story. I arrived at the temple with some Sikh friends and I remember having a similar feeling, an over-whelming feeling of seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time - truly breath-taking. I spent two nights in a local hotel and for the rest of my stay I slept (free of charge) on the floors and corridors in this incredible temple, eating for free and photographing the pilgrims. To come to this temple and not sleep within its walls is a great experience missed.
Amritsar India (Sri Harimandir Sahib Amritsar)The Golden Temple is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. Everybody, irrespective of cast, creed or race can seek spiritual solace and religious fulfilment without any hindrance. It also represents the distinct identity, glory and heritage of the Sikhs.
Built at a level lower than the surrounding land level, The Gurudwara teaches the lesson of egalitarianism and humility. The four entrances of this holy shrine from all four directions, signify that people belonging to every walk of life are equally welcome.
On February 1st 2014 I started ‘Under the Bridge’. It has just been officially closed by the Arts Council of Wales after showing at its final venue. Two people who took part in this project are no longer with us and it just reminds me of the impermanence of life and how things can change in an instant for all of us.
I firmly believe photography can help shift the social imbalance and make change towards a world where we are all equal, where poverty, homelessness and addiction can be addressed and not ignored. I do hope that these images have helped high-light the socio-cultural dynamics of our urban population and the struggles they face without structured help.
To shoot poignant pictures we only need follow the path of our enthusiasm. I believe that this feeling is the universe's way of telling us that we are doing the right thing. The viewing public will always disagree over the intrinsic merits of a particular photograph, but no one can deny the enthusiasm that originally inspired us to capture and offer that image to others.
All Buddhist teachings and practice come under the heading of Dharma, which means Truth and the path to Truth. The word Dharma also means “phenomena,” and in this way we can consider everything to be within the sphere of the teachings. All outer and inner phenomena, the mind and its surrounding environment, are understood to be inseparable and interdependent. In his own lifetime the Buddha came to understand that the notion that one exists as an isolated entity is an illusion. All things are interrelated; we are interconnected and do not have autonomous existence. Buddha said, “This is because that is; this is not because that is not; this is born because that is born; this dies because that dies.” The health of the whole is inseparably linked with the health of the parts, and the health of the parts is inseparably linked with the whole. Everything in life arises through causes and conditions.
“Buddhists believe that the reality of the interconnectedness of human beings, society and Nature will reveal itself more and more to us as we gradually recover—as we gradually cease to be possessed by anxiety, fear, and the dispersion of the mind. Among the three—human beings, society, and Nature—it is us who begin to effect change. But in order to effect change we must recover ourselves, one must be whole. Since this requires the kind of environment favourable to one’s healing, one must seek the kind of lifestyle that is free from the destruction of one’s humanness. Efforts to change the environment and to change oneself are both necessary. But we know how difficult it is to change the environment if individuals themselves are not in a state of equilibrium.”
In order to protect the environment we must protect ourselves. We protect ourselves by opposing selfishness with generosity, ignorance with wisdom, and hatred with loving kindness. Selflessness, mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom are the essence of Buddhism. We train in Buddhist meditation which enables us to be aware of the effects of our actions, including those destructive to our environment. Mindfulness and clear comprehension are at the heart of Buddhist meditation. Peace is realised when we are mindful of each and every step.
The kaleidoscope of Buddhist sight and sound is diverse and enduring, What I do find interesting though is that most of us seem to realise intuitively how important it is to live without clinging to things, even if we're not exactly sure how that's supposed to happen. In the West, we seem to gauge our success in life by what we have accumulated over the years. Traveling through Buddhist countries has been an enormous life-lesson for me and my own battle with non-detachment continues to this day.
The Aghori are followers of a Hindu sect believed to be 1000 years old. These ascetics are often regarded as sadhus (Sanskrit for ‘good/holy man’), and have devoted their entire lives to the achievement of moksha (meaning ‘liberation’). Unlike other sadhus, however, the Aghori follow an unconventional and radical path towards enlightenment.
These practices are considered as contradictory to orthodox Hinduism, and the Aghori have earned the reputation as being the most feared sadhus in India. The Aghori are also said to be highly respected. So, who are the Aghori, and what are the practices that have earned them their much feared reputation?
An Introduction to Aghori Beliefs
The present form of the Aghori sect may be traced back to Baba Keenaram (Kinaram), a 17th century ascetic who they say lived until the age of 170. After his death, Baba Keenaram was buried in the holy city of Varanasi, and the Keenaram temple that was built there is considered by the Aghori as a most sacred site. The Aghori worship Shiva or Mahakala, the destroyer, and Shakti or Kali, the goddess of death. The Aghori are usually found residing near cremation sites, most famously, in Varanasi. Nevertheless, they can also be found in other areas which are much more remote, including the cold caves of the Himalayas, the dense jungles of Bengal, and the hot deserts of Gujarat. According to Aghori belief, liberation may be achieved by embracing practices which are considered taboo by orthodox Hinduism. Furthermore, they believe that when these practices are done properly, faster spiritual progress can be achieved. The way of the Aghori is certainly not for the faint of heart, as those who fail to do their practices appropriately risk binding themselves down more tightly to the wheel of existence.
Aghori Ritual Practices
One of the most famous practices of the Aghori is cannibalism. It must be noted that the Aghori do not deliberately kill people for their flesh. Instead, it is the flesh of corpses brought to the cremation grounds that they consume. This human flesh is often eaten raw, though at times it is roasted over an open fire. The Aghori believe that distinctions are merely delusions, and are obstacles in the path of one’s spiritual development. Thus, they see no difference between good and evil, nor do they see a difference between human and animal flesh. The consumption of the flesh of corpses, therefore, is an affirmation of the Aghori’s belief system. Apart from human flesh, the Aghori are also known to drink urine and eat feces. These practices supposedly help to kill the ego and derail the human perception of beauty. Another Aghori practice is the shunning of clothes. Aghori often move around with nothing but a loincloth, and at times, in the nude. This act is meant to allow the Aghori to overcome their feelings of shame, and is also aimed at the renunciation of the material world and attachment to material objects. Additionally, the Aghori smear themselves with ash from human cremated remains. The use of human ashes is meant as an imitation of Shiva, and is believed to protect the Aghori from diseases.
The Skull: The Sign of the Aghori
In addition to human ashes, the Aghori also use other human remains, most notably the human skull. The skull, or ‘kapala’, is the real sign of the Aghori, and once initiated, an Aghori will go in search of this object. The skull is then used as a bowl for all the Aghori consume. They also share this bowl with animals such as dogs and cows. According to one myth, Shiva once decapitated one of Brahma’s heads, and was forced to roam about the outskirts of society whilst carrying the head. Therefore, seeking to emulate Shiva, the Aghori also carry human skulls with them.
It has also been suggested that the Aghori keep human skulls due to the belief that after death, the life force of the deceased clings in the top of the skull. Furthermore, the Aghori believe that with the use of certain mantras and offerings (especially alcohol), they are able to summon the deceased’s spirit and gain control over it. The practices of the Aghori are indeed highly unorthodox and extreme, and would almost certainly be rejected by the majority of Hindus. Though the Aghori themselves perceive their actions as a faster means to achieve moksha, the necessary rituals to achieve their goal are far too radical for most people. Needless to say, this is not a path that many would want to, or would be able to, follow.
Navjyoti India Foundation is a not-for-profit society, registered on January 5, 1988 by then 16 serving police officers of Delhi Police and conceived by Dr Kiran Bedi, first women IPS, and her team of North district police, with the main objective of crime prevention through welfare policing, education of street children, vocational skills for women drug peddlers and detox programs were its initiating projects.
Vision: Navjyoti India Foundation envisions to challenge the socio-economic inequalities and enable the vulnerable sections of the society towards the goal of self-reliance.
Mission: To mobilize and harness the power of children, youth, women and people at large to approach illiteracy, ignorance,gender discrimination and the evil of drug addiction with an ultimate aim of crime prevention and inclusive socio-economic development.
1. To mobilize and harness the power of children, youth, women and people at large with an aim of crime prevention and inclusive socio-economic development.
2. To organize services for individuals, groups and communities so as to inculcate the self help spirit and to enable them to contribute in social developments.
3. To organize literacy campaign viz. formal education, non-formal education, adult education, tutorial classes and vocational training of various types for empowerment of women, children, youth and community as a whole.
4. To undertake projects for rural up-liftment and development of education, vocational training and self-help group.
5. To establish, sustain and support facilities for skill upgradation thereby promoting self reliance.
6. To build leadership capacities and empower communities in complementing the efforts of nation building by strengthening their resource capability through personal trainings and awareness on socio-economic issues such as health, gender discrimination, ignorance and environment.
1. Inclusion and Diversity: Finding best people without any discrimination of age, gender and caste.
2. Integrity: Commitment to continued validation and support of the highest ethical standard of equality, fairness and confidentiality.
3. Accountability: Commitment to provide quality services; creating a conducive work environment for our employees.
Navjyoti India Foundation is committed to transform a large section of our vulnerable society towards Self Reliance and Empowerment by:
1. Enhancing beneficiarie’s satisfaction.
2. Complying with the requirements of international standards.
3. Achieving continual improvements in effectiveness of our management system through systematic analysis and review of results.
4. Training, participation and involvement of all our employees. “As an organization, we are fully committed to ensure the implementation of international standards.”
This is an important question to answer in order that governments are able to devote the resources needed to address street children’s needs. A commonly quoted figure is 100 million street children worldwide, however given that this estimate is from 1989, it is considerably outdated. The true numbers are unknown.
Why don’t we know how many street children there are? Estimated and counting street children are other hidden populations is not easy.
Street children are a dynamic and mobile population, which requires specific methodologies other than standard household surveys or census.
Estimates or counts that are done at a fixed point in time can be misleading depending on when the counts takes place – numbers of children in the street can fluctuate either with seasonal change or if the government removes street children ahead of big events international sporting events or global meetings or celebrations.
They are often invisible – while researchers can take a snapshot of the children currently on the streets, they won’t capture the children who are indoors at that particular day or moment.
Some groups of children can be less visible on the streets, for example girls, or children with disabilities
Street children experience high levels of stigma and often are suspicious of attempts to count them, fearing negative consequences as a result of being counted and preferring to remain below the radar.
Despite these challenges, it is crucial to establish reliable numbers of street-connected children and the realities of their lives. No child should ever be harmed by those who have the duty to protect them.
The redevelopment and rebranding of the area formerly known as Tiger Bay has seen Cardiff Bay blossom into a jewel in Cardiff’s crown.
In summer especially, tourists and locals alike flock to the Bay for the theatre, restaurants, bars and attractions that make the area a vibrant hub of the community.
But the tourist attraction we see now is a world away from the Tiger Bay of old, The soul of the Tiger has vanished.
Here are some of the people that remember past times.
To gain access to the Kogi, I had to write a letter to their Political leader in order to make a photographic essay on their culture. As luck would have it, I was allowed into their world and was fortunate enough to also go to the home go their spiritual leader and take some portraits of him. Traveling almost 9,000 kilometres from the UK, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, intense heat and high humidity tested me to my limits, but just to have an insight into this mysterious world was worth the hardship. Encountering poisonous snakes, giant spiders and scorpions just added to the excitement.
As I started my trip through the dense jungle to see the Kogi, it wasn't long before I came across them. We approached a river called the Buritaca, where we came across our first hamlet.
Dressed in white tunics and with jet black hair, members of Colombia’s Kogi tribe come across as mild and meek – so it’s hard to believe they’re actually one of the most outspoken indigenous groups in South America.
Protectors of their homeland, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, they’re fierce environmentalists who have previously protested against potentially damaging industrial developments. The Kogi know secrets about nature that would make our scientists rethink their ideas on the environment and the universe. They have a presence about them that commands respect. The power of their mind is beyond comprehension. But few people outside of Colombia know who they are and what they represent.
They fear that ‘little brother’ (the white man) is destroying our planet, signified by an increasing number of natural disasters and unpredictable weather patterns. They believe it’s their duty to warn the world about the impact of such behaviour, and the dangers that might lie ahead if they refuse to stop.
Living a secluded life for 500 years since Spanish conquistadors invaded their territory, Kogi communities can be found dotted along the world’s highest coastal mountain in the north of Colombia. The Kogi believe they are descendants of this ancient pre-Columbian civilisation, and still perform sacred ceremonies at some ruins, where no media are allowed. The Kogi live in the higher regions of the Sierra Nevada. Many self-sustaining communities are on the Western part of the Mountain accessible through Valledupar, which is located in the State of Cesar. You can also enter Kogi land via Santa Marta, a coastal city, but it is a little more difficult. The Sierra Nevada is the highest coastal mountain in the world only 26 miles from the beach. It is located near the Equator, which means it has no seasons. Day and night are of equal length all year round. It has every eco-system in its 17,000 km2 area (8,000 sq. miles) You can find coral reefs, mangroves, arid deserts, rain and cloud forest, and in the higher elevations, plains and snow-capped peaks with temperatures close to –20 degrees. The highest peak is the Pico Simon Bolivar at 5,775 mtrs. In 1965, archeologists found the remains of a lost Tairona religious align=”left” and called it the “Lost City.” It is a three-day hike in dense jungle to witness a true wonder of the past. Rumour has it there are 2 more lost cities yet to be found.
By refusing to adopt Western dress and mentalities, the Kogi have successfully preserved their culture. Males carry around a Poporo – which is vital to their existence - a gourd given to boys when they enter manhood – and also a small bag of coca leaves, which are crushed and mixed with calcium shells. ‘Mambear’ the action of taking the coca pasta from the Poporo. Women are distinguishable by the garlands of beads worn around their necks. The Kogi men live separately from their wives for reasons still unknown.
For the first 18 years of their lives, spiritual leaders live in darkness as they try to fully understand Aluna. Their outlook on life is simple; respect and love the environment you live in. By co-existing in harmony with the forest, they have a connection with nature we lost a long time ago.
The Konyaks are one of the major Naga tribes. They are easily recognised from other Naga tribes by their pierced ears; and tattoos which cover their faces, hands, chests, arms, and calves. Facial tattoos were earned for taking an enemy's head.
Other unique traditional practices that set the tribe apart from the rest are: gunsmithing, iron-smelting, brass-works, and gunpowder-making. They are also adept in making machetes and wood sculptures. In Nagaland, they inhabit the Mon District - also known as 'The Land of The Anghs'. The Anghs/Wangs are their traditional chiefs whom they hold in high esteem.
The Konyaks were the last among the Naga tribes to accept Christianity. In the past, they were infamous for marauding nearby villages of other tribes, often resulting in killings and decapitations of the heads of opposing warriors. The decapitated heads were taken as trophies and usually hung in the 'Baan' (a communal house). The number of hunted heads indicated the power of a warrior. The headhunting expeditions were often driven by, and founded on certain beliefs, code of honour and principles of loyalty and sacrifice.
Exploring the uncharted boundaries of Longwa village in Mon district, Nagaland, will actually introduce you to a unique chronicle. It might be an excellent option to push yourself and explore this unchartered territory. This village truly abides by what Carlos Santana says, “One day there will be no borders, no boundaries, no flags and no countries and the only passport will be the heart. “ Yes, people are not divided in Longwa Village by boundaries.
Many remote Konyak villages have succumbed to temptation of Opium as it is on its way out of Myanmar to the buying public. If you are traveling around these parts, choose your overnight stays wisely lest you find yourself under the dark cloud of a community over run by the drug. Normally, if the Angh (village leader) is a smoker, then you can rest assured the rest of the neighbourhood likes a toke, and you will no doubt quickly discover a place who’s soul has long gone up in the smoke of the low quality resin which is available in these parts . Villages like these are better passed by in my opinion.
The Nepal Himalaya is the ultimate goal for mountain lovers. Some of the Himalaya’s most iconic and accessible hiking is on offer here, with rugged trails to Everest, the Annapurnas and beyond. Nowhere else can you trek for days in incredible mountain scenery, secure in the knowledge that a hot meal, cosy lodge and warm slice of apple pie await you at the end of the day.Then there's the adrenaline kick of rafting a roaring Nepali river or bungee jumping into a yawning Himalayan gorge. Canyoning, climbing, kayaking, paragliding and mountain biking all offer a rush against the backdrop of some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes.
Other travellers prefer to see Nepal at a more refined pace, admiring the peaks over a sunset gin and tonic from a Himalayan viewpoint, strolling through the medieval city squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, and joining Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims on a spiritual stroll around centuries-old stupas and monasteries. Even after the 2015 earthquake, Nepal remains the cultural powerhouse of the Himalaya; the Kathmandu Valley in particular offers an unrivalled collection of world-class palaces, hidden backstreet shrines and sublime temple art. Nepal is also a great place to learn about Tibetan Buddhism as I now understand why Tibetans and the Nepalese view these mountains as Gods.
There are few countries in the world that are as well set up for independent travel as Nepal. Wandering the trekking shops, bakeries and pizzerias of Thamel and Pokhara, it’s easy to feel that you have somehow landed in a kind of backpacker Disneyland. Out in the countryside lies a quite different Nepal, where traditional mountain life continues at a slower pace, and a million potential adventures glimmer on the mountain horizons. The biggest problem you might face in Nepal is just how to fit everything in, which is one reason why many people return here over and over again.