I havent been travelling much for the couple of months and hence there is very little to post about my trips. Ive been recently interested in birds and although the identification parade is a little new to me, Im very happy to be in the midst of a forest and observe them , their colours and their behaviour. However, Im not going to post anything about them as yet, but here is a guest post from an acclaimed travel writer, blogger and photographer Arun Bhat.

Arun has been blogging on India Travel Blog for more than four years and Im inspired by him totally. An IT professional, Arun gave up his day job to drive down the road not taken. He also has a flickr group where he shares and reviews photographs and gives tips on photography. Over to Arun, who is now taking us behind the scenes of performing arts of our country with his photographs .

Across the length of the country, we see so many cultures that have their own distinct identities. The way of life, festivals, celebrations and arts vary from state to state, and many times, from one corner of a state to other. A few hours of journey can take us to a different landscape inhabited by people with no resemblance to those from the place we have left behind. Art forms of various kind exist all along. The one similarity among these is the love of celebratory colours that get used generously. Here is an attempt to capture those colours in frame.

Kathakali. A dance-drama from Kerala with a history of more than 400 years. The make-up and costume of Kathakali artists is so elaborate that it takes more than six hours for the team to get ready for the performance. It was once called Ramanattam, as the the story narrated was always from Ramayana. Over the years, Kathakali expanded to performing stories from Mahabharatha. The artist in picture is angry Bheema in search of Dushyasana, eager to avenge the humiliation of many years.

Theyyam. Another art form from Kerala, popular in the northern districts of Kasargod and Kannur. Theyyam is always performed at a temple premises, and each temple tends to have its own variation of the Theyyam. The deity of the temple speaks through the artist during the performance, and the devotees often gather to ask questions and request solutions for their problems.

Yakshagana. It is hard not to draw parallels between Kathakali and Yakshagana, a dance-drama from coastal Karnataka. Yakshagana too, narrates stories from Ramayana and Mahabharatha. The dances however vary considerably. While Kathakali artists never speak but enact in silence, Yakshagana mixes music with conversations between artists, a bit like a modern play.

Bhoothada Kola. Another art form from costal Karnata too, has parallels with its neighbour in the form of Theyyam. The costumes are different but similar, and so are some intricacies of the performances.

Another performing art from Karnataka, captured at the government sponsored folk festival in Bangalore.

The cham dances are an intriguing performance in the regions of India that were once under Tibetan influence. One can see cham dance performances in the monasteries of Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. The dances represent the triumph of good over evil, and are an essential part of festivals in the monasteries.

Capturing performances can pose several challenges to the photographer. Low light can be a major problem in stage shows. Distance to the stage may not enable the photographer to get up close with the artists. When the performance happens in an open arena, like in the case of Theyyam, finding a convenient place to shoot and make space among the crowds is a difficult proposition. The swift movement of the artists can add to the challenge in all occasions.

Good equipment can help overcome some of these problems. The on-stage low light is countered with fast lenses with wide aperture, and camera/lenses that compensate for movement and vibration. A long telephoto lens can help captures expressions of the performers. Alertness of the photographer is equally important. Often, there is little time to get your camera in position, compose and then shoot. By the time one is ready, the artist would have moved on to the next step, leaving the photographer without a shot of that special moment. The way out is to stay ready all the time, with the viewfinder cupped to the eye. In many occasions when the steps are repetitive, use predictability to your advantage.

It is important to capture every possible visualizations. A wide angle shot covering the entire stage with many artists and musicians gives a perspective of what is happening. A close-up shot showing the elaborate make-up and facial expressions brings the subject alive and conveys the emotions involved to the viewer.


  1. Jarlin 10 May, 2009 at 19:33 Reply

    You are correct, especially for India. It has vast culture and you can find interesting stories behind each of them if you start researching.

    Nice post…keep writing.

  2. P.N. Subramanian 11 May, 2009 at 11:58 Reply

    Beautiful presentation. The art forms brought out here are rather well known. Our country is so vast with varied cultures. The interiors (tribal areas) also have wonderful folk dances.

  3. T and S 11 May, 2009 at 16:43 Reply

    Beautifully written post and the images are cool, I also like the last paragraph that you wrote about capturing not just the moment but the essence of it which is important for photography.

  4. mannab 12 May, 2009 at 09:46 Reply

    It is highly appreciated that you took efforts to collect the info and get nice snaps. This culture is found throughout the India and it is disappearing fast. Those are having the tradition to perform are slowly turning away. In Maharashtra, especially in Konkan, there was Dashaavatari art. I would advise you to visit Konkan and get us the glimpses of it. Thanks alot.
    Mangesh Nabar

  5. Wendy 14 May, 2009 at 01:26 Reply

    Beautiful photos. I agree on catching as many views as possible. Close ups provide detail while wide angle shots show the big picture.

  6. Kenney Jacob 15 May, 2009 at 08:50 Reply

    Photographing art forms has to be done in a studio with proper lighting and effects. Then only the photographer will have the freedom he needs to be creative.

    You blog posts are really good, well researched and with a view point.

  7. amod 15 May, 2009 at 12:11 Reply

    Kerala is one of the most famous tourist attractions of India.Kerala, also popularly known as God’s Own Country”, is a beautiful state of India. Kerala is globally famous for beaches and backwaters. We are also provide this type of information. plz visit. Kerala Backwaters Tours

  8. Tour to Kerala 18 May, 2009 at 17:08 Reply

    Kerala is an international reputed Ayurveda hub. Tourists from all over the world travel to Kerala to receive the holistic natural therapy provided by the many high-quality Ayurvedic centers of the state.

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