Learning about new cultures has always fascinated me, and so when the opportunity to visit a tribal group that I had long admired arose, I jumped at the chance. First a little background for those of you who have not come across this group before – Harijan was a term used by Gandhi for Dalits (untouchables). He believed it was wrong to call people ‘untouchable’ and so called them Harijans; Hari meaning God and Jan meaning people, so literally – children of God. This tribal group originally came from Rajasthan and the women wear brightly coloured embroidered clothing, and once married wear a large golden ring through their nose, and as you’ll see from the photographs, by large I mean really LARGE!
Let’s get my rant out of the way first so this post ends on a positive note… When photographing people it should be done with a high level of respect, these villages are not set up simply for tourists; they are home to this group of people, therefore not a zoo. Put yourself in their place, would you like it if a visitor to your village simply walked up to you, took a photograph and then walked away without even so much as a “Hello” or ”How are you today?”. I doubt it, but sadly I have seen this time and time again, not just here but in many parts of Asia – and it needs to stop. The guides in the area don’t seem to advise people against doing this.On one occasion I tried to explain my particular view on the matter by saying that I will always ask permission before taking a photo of someone (and yes, I really do) and if the person declines then that is fine and I understand, sadly the response from this guide was that I should put my ethics to one side – a very sad situation where the quantity of photographs seems to outweigh any form of respect. OK, rant over…
So, where were we? OK, the Harijan women are fabulous, extremely welcoming and generous, and often find it amusing that anyone would want to take their photo. I spent quite a lot of time with a few of these ladies and over many saucers of chai, had a great laugh. Note the word saucer and not cup; here it is customary to drink from a saucer as it ensures the chai cools evenly – although it is very hard to drink when giggling and I usually end up with half of it down my front, causing yet more laughter!
The marital nose rings are amazing, where I come from a single ring on the finger shows your marital status, but here they prefer to wear giant golden nose rings which weigh a surprising amount. The women also wear very colourful clothing which always seems to contrast perfectly with the background, making for some great photos. Do be warned that if you choose to visit Kutch and the villages there, it is a very hot and dusty place, and so changing lenses is not really advised unless you enjoy removing dust bunnies from all of your future shots!
If you have any questions about the settings used to take these photographs or would simply like to know more about the location, please leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible.
About the author: currently based in the UK, Kimberley Coole is available for assignment or commission both locally and internationally, specialising in travel photography. Kimberley was chosen as a Travel Photographer of the Year 2012 finalist and received a commendation from the judging panel. Her photographs are represented exclusively by the world’s leading stock photography agency, Getty Images, and have been featured in numerous publications.
This is her website.