Archive for Kumbh Mela

River of Life

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2015 by stevemccurry

For more than 2000 years, travelers have walked, ridden,
prayed, traded, invaded, escaped, fought, and
died along the 1,500 miles of the Grand Trunk Road
which stretches from Kolkata to Kabul.

Tram, Calcutta, India, 1996; A Tram, Calcutta, India, 1996 MCS1996002 K010 Magnum Photos, NYC5923 Kolkata, India

This ribbon of humanity stretching Northwest from Kolkata,
the city of culture and joy, to Kabul, the city of conflict,
has been moving merchants, buyers, conquerors, refugees,
prophets, nomads and pilgrims through what is today
India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

01896_11, 508665, India 50 Years After, Calcutta, India, 10/1996, INDIA-10379. An Indian woman prepares a meal under a shampoo advertisement. India_Book retouched_Sonny Fabbri 02/03/2015

Kolkata, India

Here are some pictures of people and places I have taken along the route of the
Grand Trunk Road during the past thirty years.

Street scene, Calcutta, India, 1996
Kolkata, India

Howrah Station, Calcutta, India, 1983 As the midday sun streams through the skylights, passengers wait for their trains. Like a movie frozen in time, one can almost hear the noise of people talking, walking, coughing and laughing, and the clatter and screech of the trains as they arrive and depart, the sounds echoing beneath the high ceilings. Howrah Station, Calcutta, India, 1983. Pg. 27, Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs Phaidon, Iconic Images, final book_iconic The Imperial Way_Book Untold_book The Great Railway Bazaar_Book
Howrah Station, Kolkata

Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, 2000, INDIA-10299. MAX PRINT SIZE: 40x60 Candles are a form of offering at the Tibetan Prayer Festival, during which thousands are lit under the Bodi tree. India's Mahabodhi Temple is steps from where Siddhartha achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha. His Four Noble Truths: Life entails suffering; suffering arises from attachment to desires; suffering stops when attachment does; to transcend life's pain, follow the Eightfold Path. A key practice is meditation. Magnum Photos, NYC31844, MCS2000009K010 Garfinkel, Perry. (December 2005). Buddha Rising. National Geographic. Vol.208, No.6, 95 Tibetan prayer festival at the site of the Bodhi tree, where Budda achieved enlightenment, Bodh Gaya, India, 2000. Pg 218, Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs. The Path to Buddha_Book Untold_book final print_UrbanArt'12 final print_milan Fine Art Print Retouched_Sonny Fabbri 05/21/2014
Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India

 Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism all developed along the route,
and Muslims proclaimed their beliefs on their journeys along the road.

Man immersed in American consumerism, Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India, 2000. Magnum Photos, NYC31911, MCS2003002 K019
Bihar, India

Woman in Alleyway Varanasi. INDIA-10906, Varanasi, India, 2010
Varanasi, India

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 1999, INDIA-10223NF. A man takes a drink of water from the river. final print_milan final print_Sao Paulo India_Book retouched_Sonny Fabbri 02/26/2015
Agra, India

“Look! Brahmins and chumars, bankers and tinkers,
barbers and bunnias, pilgrims – and potters – all the world going and coming.
It is to me as a river from which I am
withdrawn like a log after a flood.
And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle.
Such a river of life as no where else exists in the world.”
– Rudyard Kipling, Kim

00314_14, Dacca to Peshawar, Agra, India, 1983, INDIA-10711NF. People under a bridge with a passing train. The train is essential element of Indian life. For those unable to afford journey by plane, it offers an inexpensive way to travel throughout country. While working on his 'India by Rail' story for National Geographic Magazine, McCurry captured locals washing in the Yamuna River as a steam train passes by above. Phaidon, The Imperial Way, Iconic Images, final book_iconic National Geographic, June 1984, By Rail Across the Indian Subcontinent, Vol. 165, No. 6 The Imperial Way_Book India_Book retouched_Sonny Fabbri 02/25/2015
Bridge over Yamuna River near Agra, India

Two Monks at Red Fort, New Delhi, India, 1979 final print_milan final print_UrbanArt'12 retouched_Sonny Fabbri
Red Fort, Delhi, India

Allahabad, India, 1/2001, INDIA-10538. Hindu devotees walking towards Ganges during the Kumbha Mela Festival. retouched_Ekaterina Savtsova 9/11/2014
Kumbh Mela, Hindu Pilgrimage, Allahabad, India

Amritsar, Punjab, India, 1996, INDIA-10440. Man with spear and horse. NYC65119, MCS1996002 K267 retouched_Sonny Fabbri 03/27/2015Amritsar, India

Along the route of the GT there is a  struggle between secular
modernity and the conservatism of ancient religions.

Amritsar, India, 1996, INDIA-10201.These men are praying before the Ber Baba Buddha tree, under which Baba Buddha, one of the gurus of Sikhism, would sit and meditate. In the background can be seen the famous Golden Temple. There is a satisfying visual balance between the three men all engaged in the act of worship. National Geographic Magazine. Vol. 191, No. 7, pg. 54, May 1997, India: Fifty Years of Independence. Magnum Photos, NYC5925, MCS1996002 K031 Phaidon, South Southeast, Iconic Images, final book_iconic, iconic photographs The tranquil and peaceful site of the Golden Temple, also known as Harmandir Sahib or Darbar Sahib, completed in 1601 in Amritsar, Punjab, as a pilgrimage center and most sacred temple for the Sikhs. Steve McCurry: Photographs of Asia. Boca Raton Museum of Art. 2004, 44.The Golden Temple in Amritsar serves as the spiritual center for the world's 20 million Sikhs.
Golden Temple, Sikh Holiest Place of Worship, Amritsar, India

 The Grand Trunk Road served as the two way escape route for
75 million refugees caught between Indian and Pakistan during Partition.

00313_20, Decca to Peshawar, 1983, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, PAKISTAN-10101. A woman in front a of a mural. retouched_Ekaterina Savtsova 03/21/2014Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Peshawar is strategically located at the crossroads of Central and South Asia

00063_10, Afghan border, Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984, PAKISTAN-10188. Quissa Khawani Bazaar, the Market of Storytellers, Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984. MAX PRINT SIZE: 40X60 MCS1984005K053, NYC134799 The Imperial Way_Book The Great Railway Bazaar_Book retouched_Sonny Fabbri 11/04/2014
Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Prayers, Peshawar, Pakistan, 1984 In a scene that has changed little in hundreds of years, these men are facing west towards Mecca, performing the sunset prayer: Salt Al-Maghrib. As dusk falls over the region, the red glow spreads out from the mountains as the men's teacher delivers a lesson, 11/1984 Phaidon, Iconic Images, final book_iconic, page 64. Iconic_Book
Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

01580_08, Peshawar, Pakistan, 1997, PAKISTAN-10157. A woman carries a sewing machine. Retouched_Sonny Fabbri 08/01/2013
Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

00286_01, 01535_12, Landi Kotal, Pakistan, 1983, PAKISTAN-10006 Train engineer, Khyber Pass, Landi Kotal, Pakistan, 1983. Pg 45, Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs Portraits_Book The Imperial Way_Book PORTRAITS_book Untold_bookLandi Kotal, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan

AFGHN-10025 (1)
Near the Afghan/Pakistan border

02087_14_, Afghan Border, 12/1984, AFGHN-14245NF. Train of camels walk down road by Afghan Border. retouched_Ekaterina Savtsova 04/15/2015 Near the Afghan/Pakistan Border

02087_10, Afghan Border, 12/1984, AFGHN-14378. Crowded market in Afghanistan. retouched_Ekaterina Savtsova 04/15/2015
Near the Afghan/Pakistan border

AFGHN-13080NF2 (3)Village near Surobi, Afghanistan

Children work in an opium field in Badakhshan, which is Afghanistan's largest producer of opium, Badakhshan, northern Afghanistan, 1992, final print_milan In The Shadow of the Mountain_Book final print_MACRO'11 final print_Beetles and Huxley Retouched_Sonny Fabbri 03/18/2014

Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 1992, AFGHN-10225. Portrait of a man with cloudy beard. MAX PRINT SIZE: 30X40 final print_milan Portraits_Book In The Shadow of the Mountain_Book Looking East_Book PORTRAITS_book PORTRAITS_APP final print_Beetles and Huxley NYC9239, MCS1992006 K103 Retouched_Sonny Fabbri 02/05/2014 MAX PRINT SIZE: 30X40
Jalalabad, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12467NF, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002, AFGHN-12467NF. Girl standing in the doorway of her home. This young girl lives in the ancient part of Kabul, which until the past decade was almost destroyed due to decades of war. Organizations like Turquoise Mountain (@TurquoiseMountain) are restoring parts of the old city, and are working to re-imagine and resurrect almost-forgotten crafts in order to provide people with skills which will enable them to have gainful employment. retouched_Sonny Fabbri 03/04/2015 Murad Khani, Kabul, Afghanistan

Kabul is over 3,500 years old; many empires have  invaded the valley for its
strategic location along the trade routes of Central and South Asia.

00113_18, Shia Mosque, Chindawal,Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002. AFGHN-12669. A woman in Afghanistan. retouched_Sonny Fabbri 7/15/2015
Chindawal, Kabul, Afghanistan

AFGHN-12691NF2 (2)Kabul, Afghanistan

Along this road, forged by conquerors and invaders,
the GT facilitated some of the most significant historical developments which still affect us today.

Simple Act of Waiting

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2012 by stevemccurry

Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.
-Khaled Hosseini,  A Thousand Splendid Suns 


Often the act of waiting is anything but simple.
Many people hate to wait because they are waiting to do something,
get something, or go somewhere.


Waiting doesn’t seem like an act, but the lack of action;  however,
the decision to be patient and willing to wait is an act of courage and perseverance.

Crowds at the Kumbh Mela await their turn to bathe in the Ganges.  Allahabad, India

A person who is a master of patience is master of everything else.
– George Savile

Waiting for medical care. Kabul, Afghanistan

A mother waits for news of her missing son.  Afghanistan

Refugees wait in line.  Thailand

Endurance is patience concentrated.
– Thomas Carlyle

Women queue in Yemen

 Patience is the companion of wisdom.
– St. Augustine

A ballerina waits backstage for her cue. Zagreb, Croatia

Shoppers wait for a bus. Dublin, Ireland

The faithful wait for healing. Lourdes, France 

Waiting in line for a church service. Los Angeles, USA 

Waiting for the train.  India

Waiting for a bus. Ahmedabad, India

Waiting for a look through the Berlin Wall.  Germany

Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance.
– Virgil

Waiting to perform. Hong Kong, China

People count up the faults of those who keep them waiting.
– French Proverb

Waiting for customers at Amber Fort, Jaipur, India

Dog waits for door to open. Porbandar, India

The Patience of Ordinary Things
by Pat Schneider
… I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.


Ways of Seeing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2011 by stevemccurry

Windows, Mirrors, and Reflections

Tibetans, Tibet, 2001Tibet

I can’t play bridge. I don’t play tennis.
All those things that people learn, and I admire, there hasn’t seemed time for.
But what there is time for is looking out the window.
– Alice Munro


 BURMA-10214Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma/Myanmar


“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.”   – John Berger

BURMA-10166NF, Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma, February 2010Burma/Myanmar

Hazara Boy, Kabul, Afghanistan

THAILAND-10025, Thailand; 2007Thailand


Sauna, Kabul, Afghanistan, 2002Kabul, Afghanistan

 Mirrors have been the subject of ancient myths, folktales, literature, and superstitions for centuries.
They are often used as a metaphor for insight into one’s self.   

Restaurant, Kunduz, Afghanistan, 2002, final book_iconicKunduz, Afghanistan

Lebanon-10045, Lebanon, 03/1982Beirut, Lebanon

00202_ 20, Woman in Photography Studio in Lhasa, Tibet, Tibetans, 09/2001, 2001Tibet

 Yangon, Burma, February 2010Yangon, Burma/Myanmar

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see, I swallow immediately.
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
– Sylvia Plath

AFGHN-12590, Jalalabad, Nangarhar, Afghanistan, 1989Jalalabad,  Afghanistan

_SM18082_adj; Cuba; 2010, LATIN_AMERICA-10142 Havana, Cuba

PAKISTAN-10030NF2, Pakistan, 1981,Pakistan

BURMA-10372NF2, Burma/Myanmar, 02/2011 Burma/Myanmar

 In Greek mythology, Narcissus, looking into a pool of water, did not understand that
he saw his own reflection, and fell in love with himself.

INDIA-10754-(1)Agra, India


“I became startled by the extraordinary difference between something whose surface is completely invisible which only makes itself present by virtue of what it reflects, and a window, which doesn’t make itself apparent at all…”
–  Jonathan Miller
India, Kumbh Mela

Unpublished, Unseen 3

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2010 by stevemccurry

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Burma, 2010


So many of you have told me that you enjoy seeing the unpublished work, that I will try to put up previously unseen material more often. Thanks for looking at my blog.


Greatest Show on Earth

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 12, 2009 by stevemccurry

The Kumbh Mela has been called the world’s largest act of faith and the greatest show on earth.


Allahabad, 2001

Millions of pilgrims, sadhus and saints, politicians, and tourists arrive on foot, in private jets and helicopters, by taxi, horses, cars, and bikes to the largest gathering on the planet.


Allahabad, 2001

Pilgrims believe that bathing in the river will cleanse them of their sins.  Many shave their heads, so there are thousands of barbers to help them for a few rupees.


Allahabad, 2001

While visiting India, Mark Twain remarked that, “Pilgrims plodded for months in heat to get here, worn, poor and hungry, but sustained by unwavering faith.”


Allahabad, 2001


Haridwar, India, 1998

I  will be leading an expedition to the Kumbh Mela Festival from March 4 – 16, 2009.  The main attraction of this workshop and expedition is the Kumbh Mela festival.   We will be focusing on the images that participants take every day and I will help participants to put together a Mela portfolio. Over the course of the days in Haridwar we will witness the auspicious bathing day where people will travel from all over India via trains, buses and road to bathe in the Ganges.   This trip is almost sold out.  For information please contact


Allahabad, 2001

The Mela will be filled with all sorts of interesting characters: Sadhus, naked Babas who use the sky as their garment, animated beggars, street performers, people from every caste and sub caste of India. Old and young people all attend, and some very old people attend who are hoping to die while they attend the Mela so they can be cremated right there on the Ganges.


Ujjain, India


Steve McCurry and Sadhu in Allahabad, 2001


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