BA (Hons) Photography student Radha Datta has been working on a coffee table book with the State Government of Madhya Pradesh documenting the history of Ujjain in India and what the Mahakumbh means to the city.

This week the book was unveiled by the Prime Minister of India.

Radha tells us about the project:

“The Mahakumbh is a massive Hindu religious affair that happens once in every 12 years. The last Mahakumbh took place in 2004 and the next one is scheduled to happen in 2016. The Kumbh is one of the largest human congregations on Earth and is regarded to be the largest religious gathering in the world. This festival invites millions of pilgrims, tourists and foreigners etc to be a part of this glory of history that Hinduism has to offer. People from all walks of life come together and take a holy dip in the sacred river to wash away their sins.

Next year, it is believed that over 100 million people will be attending this festival. Managing people on that scale takes a lot of preparation and Ujjain is not a metropolitan city. But the development work that has been happening in Ujjain is phenomenal. To accommodate the people, their needs, proper transport service, a place to stay etc is being handled very well. The book basically traces the history of Ujjain as a city, its cultural heritage, its traditions and what the Mahakumbh actually stands for.

The publishers needed a fresh and young perspective, hence, this lovely opportunity fell in my lap.

I spent a couple of days in Ujjain. I think what makes the city so impeccably different and special from others is the insane amount of positive energy that oozes out of every living and non living thing. The people are zestful and very, very helpful. The city is what it is because of them. There were times I had to attend religious gatherings at 2am and not an ounce of discomfort was experienced. From meeting Sadhus (God men) who’ve dedicated their lives solely trying to help and benefit others to sweet gestures like people asking me time and again if I’ve eaten (be it 4 in the morning or 6 in the evening). Its amazing how truly devoted people are to religion and well being of others and how it has become a way of life there. It was a beautiful thing to witness this utter level of devotion.

I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to come my way. For a 20 year old, its a dream come true. I was so scared and excited at the same time. Working with such knowledgeable and respected people sure did put a lot of pressure on me but it gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone. The book also has a lot of photographs shot by Mr. Rajendra Janglay who covered the Mahakumbh in 2004. The beautiful aerial shots of the festival really enhance the book’s beauty. I consider myself very lucky to have shared this platform with him. 

None of this would’ve happened if hadn’t been at AUB. Studying Photography at AUB is probably the best decision I think I’ll ever make in this lifetime. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating. The lecturers are so accommodating, informative and help you grow and blossom in literally all spheres of life.

Working in such a nice environment and amongst such talented peers brings out the best in me. I can very confidently say that I’ve learnt something new and deeply interesting on a regular basis at AUB. Be it a group tutorial or just a normal conversation while walking down the corridor.”