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Spiti – Paradise Unveiled: An Ethereal Stillness

By Shailan Parker

Imagine a journey on a long-winding slope of bliss, without measure of scale or extent. You may dream of it, but it will pale in comparison to what you will experience in Spiti. It is a land of colour, contradiction and ceremony.  An ethereal stillness permeates the landscape – meditative in its silence and magnetic in its emptiness.

Kishore Thukral is not a formally trained photographer. His photography is instinctual – a combination of eye, lens and innate skill, and the spirit of the subject he shoots. He has trekked, researched and photographed extensively in the western Himalayas, especially the remote Spiti valley that, in ancient times, was sporadically a part of the Tibetan realm. He is the author of Spiti through Legend and Lore (2006, Mosaic Books) which documents the legends and folklore of the vale both in text and photographs.

His images, shot from both land and air, over all seasons, are presented in this online exhibition titled Spiti – Paradise Unveiled presented by India International Centre, New Delhi, along five themes: Gateway to Paradise, The Incredible Moonscape, Life in Paradise, The Lama series of Paradise, and Serene Snowscapes. 

The exhibition is about capturing the moods, movements and moments experienced while in Spiti. In his travels in the valley over two decades, Kishore has succeeded in capturing every nuance of the elements in all their mystique.

The images of flags that flutter like wings in abandon against a powerful backdrop of snow-laden peaks and stunning skies emphasize the contradictory nature of flourishing life in the middle of desert-mountains. The compositions deftly capture movement without disturbing the stillness and calm.

Kunzum la, July 2013

Kunzum la, July 2009

The exhibition combines wide-sweeping shots with crisp renditions of the terrain and its various hues, emphasizing the inherent beauty of the landscape. Kishore’s camera traces the splaying river and jagged ridges dating back to prehistoric times. His portrayal of light and shade in mountains and monasteries is especially mesmerizing.

Valley of the Chandra, September 1999

Village Rangrik (in the distance), October 2011

Key gonpa, October 2011

The fields of village Hansa, July 2010

Demul-Kaza, May 2010

Parang la, August 2004

The images include those of Spiti’s ancient monasteries and temples, home to its sentinels of faith. Hymn and worship, festivity and colour reveal themselves in the images of monks in prayer, and priceless thangkas, and in the fluid movements of lamas in vibrant costumes performing the chham dance to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Chham at Key gonpa, August 2013

Indeed the exhibition is a manifestation of the relationship that Kishore Thukral has built with the land and its people; perhaps it is a karmic connection. 

The online exhibition presented by India International Centre is on view till 15 November 2020 (only on tablet or computer, not mobile)

Images courtesy of Kishore Thukral


Shailan Parker is a versatile photographer based in New Delhi and has over 30 years’ experience across photography disciplines. Trained in Visual Communication at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, he is a partner with PhotoDesign. As an educator and mentor, he has contributed extensively as a guest faculty with various prestigious design institutes. His last two exhibitions were held at the Visual Arts Gallery, India Habitat Centre, in March 2016 and at Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, in February 2018.

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