How Mehtas became Mahatta to kindle the passion for photography in Kashmir

“You just can’t have adequate of Kashmir”. Two brothers, Amarnath Mehta and Ram Chand Mehta, who arrived to Kashmir as vacationers in 1915, proved the adage. Their check out was practically a homecoming as they resolved to stay in Kashmir because their enthusiasm for images could just not have a improved implies of expression than in the mesmerising Valley, its royal grandeur, and the simplicity of its folks.

For 3 generations, the Mehtas have believed that Kashmir is the dreamland for a photographer and photograph enthusiasts.

Amarnath and Ram Chand experienced appear to Kashmir from Gurdaspur (Punjab) in 1905. In 1915, they begun a photo store in a houseboat on the Jhelum river in uptown Srinagar city.

Subsequently, they shifted to a store on the embankment of the Jhelum river, exactly where the studio stands today as ‘Mahatta and Co’. The transform of name from ‘Mehta’ to ‘Mahatta’ is a tale in itself. Ghulam Muhammad Sofi, who joined the studio on February 2, 1972 stated: “The name ‘Mehta’ was mispronounced by British vacationers as ‘Mahatta’ and that is what ultimately turned our manufacturer name”. He claimed Ram Chand Mehta treated his workers, which includes Sofi like his have kids.

“After his demise in 1994, Jagdish Mehta took above. He would generally convey to us that because the elder Mehta termed us his sons, so we have been his brothers.”

As coincidence would have it, Ram Chand Mehta, his spouse and son Jagdish all passed away on 23rd June however in different years”, Sofi recalled. His 50 several years at the Mahattas have been a saga in time and images. “On behalf of the Mahattas, I was formally engaged as the photographer for VVIP functions in Kashmir. “I have taken pics of late Indira Gandhi, Gaini Zail Singh, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and other senior leaders.

“Among the movie stars, I have photographed Dilip Kumar, Saira Banu, Rajesh Khanna and Jagdeep all through their visits to Kashmir”.

He misses the previous situations like a child who has misplaced all his toys.”Taking pics, retouching them, processing films, marching colors and so on in the studio was an art which is all vanished now. You shoot with a electronic cell phone or digital camera these times and that it.”

Images has ceased to be an artwork it made use of to be before. The Mahattas ended up the 1st to start out colour pictures in Delhi and Srinagar in 1957. Other than for Mumbai, these were the only two areas exactly where colour images was offered people days”, he reported. For his incomplete venture, ‘Zooni’ showcasing the everyday living and instances of Kashmiri Queen, Habba Khatoun, film maker, Muzaffar Ali had engaged Sofi for buying up the locales for the film. “I frequented unique villages with Muzaffar Ali to choose the indigenous village of Habba Khatoun. “He eventually picked up a put close to Harwan outdoors Srinagar city, but the movie was hardly ever completed”, Sofi reported.

The passion and company of ‘Mahattas’ knew no bounds just after 1915. The studio originally became recognized for portraits as it was to start with this sort of spot to have all forms of props and backgrounds the shoppers ideal to have. Their business enterprise grew exponentially. They set up picture studios in Lahore, Sialkot, Rawalpindi and at the Murree hill station in Pakistan.

These studios experienced to be closed with the country’s partition in 1947, but just after that, they began a even larger photo studio at Connaught Location in Delhi which was shut just a number of years back again. Ram Chand Mehta’s son, Jagdish Mehta managed the studio till his loss of life in 2016 and his spouse, Anita Mehta runs the studio these days. She claimed, “We have used three generations in continuing our legacy. From preservation of neighborhood art, society, crafts, customs, heritage, tourism and politics, we have all this preserved frame by frame in our gallery”. She claimed the relatives desires to return some part of the greatness Kashmir has bestowed on them.

“For me holding up the loved ones tradition and legacy is a worship. My two sons operate in Delhi and we have the premier photograph stock company in the Planet. So you understand that we have not been deterred by losses in business enterprise and other troubles which we confronted like every other Kashmiri.”

Pictures in its pure and traditional form has a potential which can’t be taken away by just about anything. Technologies comes as an asset and not as an enemy to the art form”, she reported. Her two sons appear regularly to take a look at their mother and get eager desire in the affairs of the studio in Srinagar. “This put is our location of worship which we can never think about to give up”, she stated when speaking of the studio the family members owns. “The first floor of our establishment is a function location for young, talented local photographers and artists.

“At the ground flooring, we operate a cafe where the youthful and old gather to perspective our photograph gallery and explore the events of the bygone days as also the effects of this grand heritage on the long term of this place”, Anita mentioned.

The image gallery at the Mahattas is in simple fact a ‘who is who’ of not only Kashmir, but the total place. There are photographers of Maharaja Hari Singh, his royal Durbar, his son and very first regent of the state, Karan Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Sheikh Abdullah, V.P.Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and several others. These are primary photographs taken by the Mahattas and none of them is a copy from wherever. Likewise, they have originals images of the Amarnath Holy Cave taken at various factors of time. The Hazratbal shrine, the Sharika Devi Temple, the shrine of Sheikh Humza Makhdoom, the shrine of Sheikh Nuruddin Wali at Chrar-e-Sharief and other Sufi shrines of Kashmir.

The pictures of snow clad mountains, rivers, springs, artisans at operate like carpet weavers, scarf makers, papier machie staff, willow wicker employees, mat weavers, potters etcetera also dot the gallery. Unique races of Kashmir, the Gujjars, Dogras, Kashmiris, Ladakhis, Dards also acknowledged as Shinas and other individuals have been photographed in their normal settings. Due to the fact the outbreak of armed violence in early 1990s, business for the Mahattas also took a beating like every thing else.

Anita’s two sons are now doing work in Delhi though the woman is carrying on the family members legacy in Kashmir. In 2012, govt of India recognised the Mahatta studio as the next oldest picture studio in the place. The Mahattas became the royal photographers of the Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh in 1930s.

“This gave us free obtain to the royal Durban (Court) and the palace which no other photographer had until that time”, reported Ms Mehta. Checking out the Mahattas on the Bund in Srinagar is like visiting the dreamland of photography in Kashmir. Within just minutes of wanting at the picture gallery, a person is transported into the moments long gone by. The glory and grandeur of Kashmir is visible, frame by body, photo by picture at the Mahattas.

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