Faces from Araku Andhra Pradesh
When I first visited Araku Valley, in Andhra Pradesh, all I had with me was a 2 MP Nokia phone to click images. We did have a Nikon Point and shoot camera, but for some reason, almost all the images I clicked on that trip were from my original SST Phone ( Sasta Sunder Tikau Phone). After that, I have been to Araku Valley again and last time besides my SST Phone I also had my trusted Nikon DSLR. Continuing my series on portraits, in this post let me share some Portraits from Araku Valley Andhra Pradesh.
For those of you who are not sure where exactly is Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh, let me spare you the trouble of Googling, and inform you that Araku is a hill station in Andhra Pradesh, just about 90 odd Kilometers from the beautiful port city of Vizag aka Vishakhapattnam, one of the cleanest cities in India in my opinion. While Vizag has its own charm as a port town with its beautiful beaches wonderful museums like the Submarine museum it is Araku that is the cherry on the cake if you are visiting Vizag. At the end of the post, I will give you the details about visiting Araku till then let us check some of the Portraits from Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh.
The first image is of this lady coconut seller, outside Bora Caves. She was deftly scalping coconuts with a huge machete that one can learn to use only after practicing for years. Her hands were moving so fast as she cut open the coconuts that I could not freeze her hand motion, but that I think adds to her Karishma.
Below is the story behind the image of Coconut Woman that I shared on my Instagram feed on the birthday of Harry Belafonte
Totally exhausted after climbing countless stairs of the Bora caves near Araku, we were looking for something to drink. I saw her dextrously knocking off one coconut after another in a shack on the road. Mesmerized at the rhythm of her hands I forgot about my thirst and looked at her in awe as she scalped the coconuts with lightning speed and handed them over to thirsty travelers. ( there are no tourists in the age of Social media jee nowadays we only have Travelers ) Our eyes met for a split second & she tactically smiled as I pointed towards my camera while I hummed in my head⠀ ” Coconut Woman” by Harry Belafonte. ⠀
*****Coconut woman is calling out⠀
And every day you can hear her shout⠀
Coconut woman is calling out⠀
And every day you can hear her shout⠀
….the song continues later and talks more about the goodness of coconut water⠀
*** Get your coconut water⠀
Man, it’s good for your daughter⠀
Coco got a lotta iron⠀
Make you strong like a lion ***⠀
*** but that is not all, read further 🙂 ***⠀
***** A lady tell me the other day⠀
No one can take her sweet man away⠀
I ask her what was the mystery⠀
She say coconut water and rice curry *****⠀
Trust me once you hear this song it will be tough to stop humming it.⠀
There are many more peppy lines rhymed to perfection in this song, you may want to check them out 🙂 ⠀
Harry Belafonte is one of a timeless artist who still makes you dance on his peppy songs even after all those ears and his contributions to music are only part of his great story. I wish we have more artists/ civil right activists like him around the world. ⠀
Who is your favorite all-time artist?.⠀
A small note about Borra caves here will not be out of place, let me add here that a visit to the caves is a must when you are in Araku, as the caves offer a magical underground world that will feed your imagination with eclectic lights, natural stone formation that looks like figurines of animals & gods and anything else that you can imagine.
The image I share next is of a tribal priest who presides over a small shrine outside the Borra caves. The shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva has 3 divine bovines with Papa Bull, mama co, and a baby bull. I think this is the family of Nandi the bull that is the preferred ride of Lord Shiva.
The image above is clicked using my 8mm fisheye lens, to see the SST Phone version on Instagram click the image above or here
Luckily for us, it was the auspicious day of Shivaratri when we were at Bora caves and tribal women from nearby villages were visiting the temples and caves and next few images that you see are of some of the tribal women worshiping the small shrine outside Bora Caves
Now let me take you inside the caves and share one of my favorite images from the visit to the Borra Caves. Now please don’t get me wrong this little girl you see in the image is not from Araku Valley but she was a visitor just like us and I took permission from her parents to click here image. What I loved was that she was trying to pretend that she is trying to eat the light as it falls from the sinkhole above the caves. I thinks it is only for a few minutes that the Sunrays enter directly in the caves from the sinkhole above and how lucky of me to be at the right place at the right time?
When you have a shrine and a cave considered holy by the locals and visiters alike can the holymen be far away? Next image is of a Sadhu whom I met outside the Borra Caves and who was only too happy to pose for images for our group.
Do you know the most stolen images from my blog are from Araku Valley? Yes, I am talking about the guest blog post written by my friend Somabrata Pramanik >
When I first visited the Araku Valley I could not get decent images of, so I requested Somabrata to share his images and story with the readers of desi Traveler blog. Countless websites have used Somabrata’s Bamboo Chicken Araku Valley images without permission, some has used them even by adding their own watermark. You can Google > Araku Valley Bamboo Chicken and see for yourself. Anyways I am sharing here Portrait of a Bamboo Chicken Maker from Araku Valley.
There are many trinkets, herbs, coffee shops etc. at many places in Araku. Most of these shops in Araku are manned by women ( notice the irony ? ) Here is one such trinket shopkeeper from Araku Valley
The next image of the little girl was made in strange circumstances. Raju our car driver is a big fan of Telugu Movies and once he realized I am a practicing photographer he insisted everywhere that we click his pictures like a movie star doing some shoot. While I was clicking him running on the train tracks ( we have checked at the station nearby and the only train that runs on these tracks was about 45 minutes away )
So while Raju was doing his stunts on the train tracks, and we were providing sound effects > Raju RaJU RAAJUU, this little girl who was crossing the tracks with her mother stopped in between the tracks to see what nonsense we were upto. I instinctively clicked her picture and moved her to safety before going back to clicking Raju Raaju RAAAAJUUUU
These are by no means all the Portraits from Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh that I clicked but these are for sure some of my favorites. Which one do you like the most?
I hope I have invoked enough interest in you to visit Araku Valley when you are in Vizag next time.
How to reach Araku Valley: Araku is about 90 KM from Vizag town. You can take a cab, bus or even a glass-roofed train from Vizag to reach Araku Valley.
Most people do a day trip to Araku, but I would suggest to really enjoy stay a minimum of one night in Araku as the mornings, as well as evenings, are the most pleasant part of the day.
While you are in Araku you must visit the Coffee Plantations that are not only producing some of the best Coffee in the country ( and the only place in the Eastern Ghats ) but also are teeming with birdlife.
Absolutely unbelievable fact about Araku Valley: Araku is the only place in South India that has recorded snowfall. The latest was in January 2012.
How cool is that?
Other places of interest in Araku Valley are the Araku Tribal Museum, Borra Caves, Katiki Waterfalls. While you are in Araku and enjoy non-vegetarian food, the famous Bamboo Chicken of Araku Valley is a must try and if you are vegetarian like me check out some of the fresh forest fruits that the tribals are selling in there roadside stalls. These fruits are not from orchards but collected from forests and taste absolutely divine.
I hope you have liked the Portraits from Araku Valley 🙂