Sholavanthan is a scenic village situated 16 km from Madurai, on the banks of the River Vaigai. Here an ancient temple with the Goddess Mari Amman temple presides over the surrounding 48 villages. Legend has it that she is supposed to have naturally appeared in this location.
Nissi Rex, my local blogger friend, suggested that we visit this festival as I was itching to get out and have a walkabout. I wasn't really prepared for the crowd or the fiery introduction!
Every year, this festival happens over 15 days. It has been happening for hundreds of years. No one knows when it started. The devotees believe that by carrying firepots and doing this penance, the deity Mariamman will grant their wishes.
It was certainly a wild night out. A visual feast for any photographer and naturally it was exhilarating for me. For this trip, I brought the Samyang f2.0 manual focus with me. This was mounted on the Sony A7R.
What was challenging for me is that I had to quickly figure out the minimum focusing distance and lock the focus as the devotees came into the frame. With things happening so fast, it was quite a challenge for me.
What I did do is put it on burst mode and fire away when something interesting came up.
I primarily focused on the firepots and tried to shoot them illuminated by the fire. We ended up on the banks of the river where they were setting up the firepots for the devotees to walk to the temple. It was quite an experience for me as a photographer.
Here I should mention the music. The devotees go into a trance just before they take up the firepots. They are revved up to a crescendo by a staccato of drummers, who keep a constant rhythm and you can't help but start shaking to the beat!
I also managed to capture many friendly faces. They are just so happy to get their faces in front of a lens!
For the full gallery of images do have a look at this link.
I will leave with you one last image from this photo walk, that stuck with me.