Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dalda 13’s flashes of Dalai Lama at Sikkim

Homai Vyarawalla, India’s first woman press photographer claim to fame was her photographs that showed a transition of an Independent India in the first four decades. A winner of Padma Vibhusan, the second highest civilian award of India, Homai Vyarawalla was an active press photographer from the 30s till 70s when she finally retired She started her career from Bombay Chronicle and ended it with  The illustrated weekly of India. She passed aways early this year at the age of 98.
Some of her poplar photographs included the celebration of the first Independence Day, Nehru lighting a cigarette on the lips of Ms. Simon, wife of the then British High Commissioner to India, funerals of great leaders in Gandhiji, Nehru and others. 
Interestingly it is written in Wikipedia that most of her photographs were published under the pseudonym “Dalda 13″. The reasons behind her choice of this rather amusing name were that her birth year was 1913, she got married at the age of 13 and her first car’s number plate read “DLD 13″.
In 1970, shortly after her husband's death, Homai Vyarawalla decided to give up photography lamenting over the "bad behaviour" of the new generation of photographers. She did not take a single photograph in the last 40-plus years of her life. When asked why she quit photography while at the peak of her profession, she said
"It was not worth it any more. We had rules for photographers; we even followed a dress code. We treated each other with respect, like colleagues. But then, things changed for the worst. They [the new generation of photographers] were only interested in making a few quick bucks; I didn't want to be part of the crowd anymore.”
It was on her assignment on the visit of Dalai Lama to India in 1956, she was in Sikkim. It was a historic visit for Dalai Lama since a first instance and more evidently three years later he was forced to flee his country. He was at Indian to attend the Buddhist Conference.  Reports says that Homai Vyarawalla was stranded in Sikkim when had taken photographed of the young Dalai Lama and later on helped by the army trucks.
When asked about the most precious photograph of her illustrious career she had said that it was the photographs where Dalai Lama is seen coming to India for the very first time shot in Sikkim.

Below are some of her photographs she took of the young Dalai Lama crossing the frontier of Nathula in 1956:

The Dalai Lama in ceremonial dress leads the mount down from the high border pass into India. Directly behind him is the Panchen Lama. They were both wearing gold brocade gowns and jeweled gold hats. Homai documented for Time Life magazine, the first crossing of the young Dalai Lama who came through the Nathu La pass, in north Sikkim, in 1956. 
The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama walking across the border into India

 PICS|: Homai Vyarawalla/Alkazi Collection of Photography

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