May 13, 2015

India by Bike

Images and words by Alexander Grabchilev

It was hard to believe that three years had passed since my first unforgettable journey through India. My girlfriend and I had embarked on an epic six-month-long adventure, traveling from north to south by bus, train, and motorcycle. We had been yearning to get back ever since, and last October we finally had the chance.

We arrived in Rajasthan and traveled all over: Pushkar, Jodhpur, Mount Abu, Patan. When we heard of an arts-and-crafts festival in Gujarat State, we decided to rent a motorcycle and take to the road. We passed countless farmer villages, gypsy camps, lowlands, mountains, camels, peacocks, and turbans of all conceivable color. Every hill and every turn revealed a new world in which we wanted to dissolve. We were filled with absolute joy, and yet our ultimate goal was hidden away in a salt marsh, Great Rann of Kutch, by the Pakistan border. Twenty days, 3,000 kilometres, and too many incredible memories to count later, we arrived.

Kutch is a small peninsula in northern Gujarat State, known for its great diversity of ethnic groups. Arriving, we were struck by the people’s beauty and distinctiveness. Their everyday clothes, their jewelry, the interiors of their homes were all incredible. At first it was difficult to make contact, as the locals were reluctant to deal with us, and of course there was a language barrier. Near the end of the trip, however, we met a carver on the road who invited us to stay with his family in his village, promising he would show us his way of life. He was of the Meghwal tribe, a community with a complicated history, once classified as untouchable.

In the village, the people were friendly and allowed us to photograph them. Their costumes were glorious, replete with mirrors and bells and precious stones. The married women wore ivory rings on their hands, heavy silver bracelets on their legs, massive silver collars around their necks. Their round clay huts were covered with intricate geometric patterns. A wedding was to take place within a few days, and we were shown the dowry room that held all the gifts that would be offered to the young family. Sadly, we weren’t able to stay long enough to attend.

It was another unforgettable trip, indescribable except with images. We came without plans or preparations, only a desire to seek inspiring moments. In the end, our explorations were richly rewarded.

Alexander Grabchilev is a Russian photographer currently based in Bali. With the belief that you can never begin to understand the world without experiencing it for yourself, he is always traveling to remote places and learning of different ways of life. Explore more of his images >>

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