Pilgrims at Sabarimala waste after the  pilgrimage season

Pilgrims at Sabarimala waste after the pilgrimage season

With pictures taken before, during and after the pilgrimage season, N.P. Jayan raises serious environmental concerns in Sabarimala region

Equal parts natural history, elegy, and environmental outcry, N.P. Jayan’s studies of the Sabarimala terrain are steeped in the panache of verdant green forests, the revelation of the viewfinder and his deep love for nature. Traversing the forests and hills of Kerala, Jayan possesses a deep love and respect for nature; he is also particularly sensitive to the ways in which human beings are affected by their often devastating habits that define the aftermath of pilgrim tourism conditions in the evergreen forests of the Sabarimala region. Of the myriad works Jayan has produced in his acclaimed career, Sabarimala stands out for its message as it documents the vanishing way of life across Kerala’s wildlife species.

Curator Uma Nair from Delhi says, “This show is a tribute to deterioration and devastation of India’s wildlife even as they are driven by hunger, natural disasters, environmental degradation and demographic pressure, arising out of pilgrim tourism in one of Kerala’s most beautiful evergreen forests in the Sabarimala hills and the Periyar Forest Reserve. Thathwamasi is Jayan’s new opus; it is the result of an epic three-year expedition to rediscover the landscape, the animals and species of birds that are threatened by the imprint of modern society and its ethos in the name of religiosity.”

The show will have 60 images that reflect the beauty of a paradise lost in modern day moorings. “My show serves as a warning to believers and non-believers,” says Jayan. “Prayer and fasting and rituals, they all demand a discipline. Surely caring for the forests, and flora and fauna, is also about a discipline and a responsibility. We must preserve what exists. The choking of the Pamba, the lack of amenities such as drinking water, the role of plastic in the imbalance of the eco system; everything looms large in the face of the beauty of the forests.”

The Bangalore-based photographer is making a compelling case for curbs on littering in and around Sabarimala with a collection of pictures taken in three phases: before, during and after the pilgrimage season. After the Pullumedu tragedy of 2011 that killed 106 pilgrims, the then principal chief conservator of forests, T.M. Manoharan, urged Jayan to start a project where he could raise environmental concerns in the region through his photographs.

“The permission for working in the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) was in place and I could work without restrictions. The pictures have been compiled over the last three years,” says Jayan. The temple that hosts millions of pilgrims every year is situated in PTR’s buffer zone.


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