Delhi-based photographer Shivani Dass’ abiding interest in Sufism has taken her to nine important Sufi shrines across the country.
Besides paying her respects at the shrines, this 28-year-old, who has been pursuing photography for the past four years, has managed to capture 1,000 colour pictures to highlight the secular character of the shrines.
Since she could not show all her images at one exhibition, she has shortlisted 28 images, each of which has been put on display at a solo exhibition at Alliance Francaise de Delhi and has an interesting new story to tell.
Titled “Violet Dreams”, the exhibition capturing different facets of Sufism was inaugurated last weekend and ends today.
Shedding light on how her interest in Sufism developed, Shivani says her closest friend Anamika often took her to the famous Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargarh. “I used to observe that people from different religious denominations visited and prayed at the shrine. Their faith in Sufism was heartening. What I best liked about Sufism is that it does not prevent anyone from paying homage at dargahs which embrace everyone with open arms. This created a lot of interest about Sufism in me. I have always been intrigued by its mystical ways and wanted to provide a visual language to the quest for this path.”
The shrines Shivani visited included Khwaja Moinuddin Chisthi’s Dargah in Ajmer, Dargah Hazrat Tawakkal Mastan in Bangalore, Yousufain Sharifain in Hyderabad, Nagore Dargah in Tamil Nadu and Delhi dargahs of Hazrat Nizamuddin and Matka Pir.
The photographs capture different moods of the believers and ignored corners of Sufi shrines. “There was so much going on in each place that I visited. People were healed at Mira Datar’s Dargah in Gujarat and at Nagore Dargah in Tamil Nadu when I went there during Urs. But I did not want to capture the obvious imagery of suffering and joy. I wanted to look at the in between pauses when nothing is really happening, yet a great deal is,” Shivani says.
Shivani’s favourite pictures include one of a girl whose face is turned away from the camera. She is one of three sisters at Mira Datar’s Dargah who was disillusioned as her father sat outside complaining about the loss of their only son who died during the Bhopal gas tragedy.