The Yamuna is one of the most sacred rivers in India. It is the river that graces the foreground of many timeless photos of the Taj Mahal. It is the river that runs through the megalopolis of Delhi and it is strangely one of the last landmarks I consider when thinking of Delhi. I find this odd. Is it possible to think of London without imagining the Thames...Paris without picturing the Seine...New York without the Hudson or East River?
I've lived in Delhi for over 3 years and have never strolled the banks of the Yamuna. I've been to most of Delhi's "Top Ten" and I've visited many dark corners and colorful monuments recommended by friends. This is such a huge city full of "undiscovered" places. While searching Google Maps last week for a new niche to visit, I stumbled on the blue streak that runs through Delhi. OH YEAH, the Yamuna! Let's go there.
Accessibility is pretty limited and finding a place to safely park my car was something Google couldn't help me find during my late night research (some people might wonder why I even want to drive with the amount of autos and taxis that prowl the streets looking for people like me - it gives me freedom). I awoke the next morning with a sense of adventure mixed a tinge of dread and decided to pinpoint the road closest to the river and go.
Once the babysitter arrived at 9am, I grabbed my Fuji X100s and X-Pro 1 with a few lenses and headed out the door. Driving in Delhi is a sport that I've come to love. I made my way towards the Yamuna through New and Old Delhi in surprisingly great time. Not so surprisingly, I made a wrong turn onto an approach ramp leading to a bridge crossing the Yamuna. No problem, this would be my first location.
Location #1 - The Eastern Approach Road Bridge
This bridge is full of photo opportunities - vendors selling food, drink, tobacco, etc on the side of the bridge as transporters haul their oversize loads by foot, horse, bullocks, rickshaw, etc amongst various other kinds of traffic. You can temporarily park on the outbound side of the bridge as I did to take a few photos. I walked along the bridge for 5 minutes until I was motioned by a street sweeper to to move my car. It was parked over a drain (a hole in the bridge) that he wanted to sweep trash into. It all dropped straight into the Yamuna. I always knew the Yamuna was one of the most polluted rivers in the world. I imagine this is one reason my riverside stroll has been unconsciously postponed for 3 years.
Moving on further down the highway and making a U turn, I retrace my initial steps and find a parking spot up river.
Location #2 - The Gurudwara Majnu Ka Tila.
An intimidating looking yet smiling Sikh parking attendant welcomed me to the Gurudwara. I roamed the grounds for a few minutes and quickly walked behind the building complex towards the river. To my frustration, I found myself on top of a garbage plateau overlooking the Yamuna. I tried to find a clear bunny slope to slalom down but it was a black diamond mountain. I decided to take a few obligatory shots and drive to another location. Suddenly a boy ran out of nowhere and into one of my photos, making it slightly more interesting. His name is Naresh and his little brother Jataayu followed behind. Their smiling faces brightened my day as they tested my Hindi skills. I showed them their photos and they were eager to get their hands on the Fuji X system to take a few photos themselves. Naresh took the first photo of this blog post. He mentioned both cameras can do with another fn button and possibly an ISO dial. I agreed.
I said goodbye to the brothers and drove downriver towards the bridge again. Instead of making a wrong turn, I found a parking lot below an overpass near a tiny hindu temple. I parked and walked under the overpass towards the Yamuna. I found a slightly noticeable footpath past the small temple and through a thick line of trees. I follow the path through the trees, under a gigantic pipeline and past a couple of guys smoking an unusually large cigarette. I finally arrived!
Location #3 - The Suprisingly sandy shores of the Yamuna River near the Ladakh Buddist Vihara.
This place is desolate. Forgotten. I could see maybe 20 people scattered along the shore in a city busting with over 25 million people. Close to the Eastern Approach Bridge there were a couple tents to buy food and a few ghats. It is quiet. The foul stench isn't as bad as I imagined. It is a sad stretch of river. After about 30 minutes wandering the shore, I went back home to relieve the babysitter.
I plan to photograph the Yamuna from a few more locations in the near future. Hopefully I'll go during a better time of day when the light isn't so harsh like these mid day photos. If anyone has any locations, ideas or thoughts they'd like to share, please do so!