Kolhapur in Maharashtra is the perfect place to get to know the flamboyant side of India. Only a few hours from Goa or Pune, this historic settlement boasts of an intensely fascinating temple complex. In August, Kolhapur is at its vibrant best when Naag Panchami, a snake-worshipping festival, is held in tandem with one at Pune; but the real deal is the Shri Vittal Birdev festival or in layman term – the Haldi festival, held at Pattan Kodoli, a district in Kolhapur. Held every year in October, this year it’s on from 27 October – 30 October.
Shri Vittal Birdev festival is celebrates to commemorate the birth anniversary of Vitthal Birdev Maharaj, who is considered to be a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. Birdev is also the family deity of the Dhangar, a shepherd community that resides in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa and Andhra Pradesh. The annual fair and festival attracts thousands of devotees, where the festive mood is set with people throwing haldi or turmeric powder over Sri Keloba Rajabau Waghmode, known as the ‘Baba’ who sits under a Banyan tree. The baba is considered as the messenger of god, and people seek his blessings for a healthy life. He’s revered for his ability to foretell his predictions about farming, rain and future conditions of the country which is helpful to the people of the community.
Such vibrant tradition and culture in India has been known to attract travellers from all across the country. It’s a great place to shoot with the camera and to immerse oneself totally in the energy of the place. Another interesting place in Kolhapur is the Kushti Aakhara where the traditional mud wrestling is practiced. Motibag aakhara of Kolhapur is one of the oldest aakhara in India. Wrestlers of aakhara live and train together and follow strict rules and a restrained life style. During a training session, wrestlers work themselves to near exhaustion, and it’s quite something again to capture these moments on the camera.