Images and words © Chris Wormald 2010 no reproduction without written permission.
I happened to be in London recently taking photos for a client. London is not a place I go regularly, for I am not a city person. However I did live in London for a short time after finishing photographic college in the mid 1970s. I lived there long enough to know that I didn’t want to make London my home. So, 40 years later, a ten day commission to take a set of photos of central London was an eye-opener which I intend to write about later on these pages (and illustrate!)
It happened that the 2010 Ratha Yatra coincided with my visit and I was able to take a few hours “off” to take pictures. I have a genuine interest in Hinduism and determined to enjoy the procession of the Gods in their giant carts in London. I had tried to see them in their temple in Puri, India but being a westerner, I was not allowed in.
For me, the great attraction of the Hindu religion is that “the Highest Power – God- the Almighty- Great Spirit-Lord- Goddess” call Him/Her what thou wilt; can be represented by almost anything. This is great news. He/She has every gender and none and therefore can be seen in everything and anything. For some, the remote and enigmatic Shiva meditating on his mountain or dancing in a circle of fire represents the highest power, for others it’s the image of Ma Kali with her red tongue, skulls and naked power, dancing amongst the burning corpses, others seek traditional beauty and love Ma Lakshmi, or the virgin Tripura Sundari; for others the incomperable Vishnu, the brave Ram and for others God is the beautiful Krishna playing his flute to his equally beautiful Shakti, Radha. The idea that “God” is in everything explains Lord Jaganath who at first glance, looks like a cartoon character. And why shouldn’t He if everything is God!
The Ratha Yatra takes place on a Sunday and brings central London almost to a standstill as the deities on their giant carts are pulled by many willing and joyful people from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square for a party with free food, music and dancing, face painting and even some stalls trying to explain the context of all the excitement.