Photo of a woman outside Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh in India
Photo of a woman outside Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. This portrait of a local was taken in a village. Despite India's many urban centres, the nation is still overwhelmingly rural, with an estimated seventyfive percent of the population living in the countryside.

On the outskirts of Varanasi, Kristian Bertel searched for local people for his pictures. This woman was preparing some food with her red scarf around her head. She was looking directly into his camera. Curious and aware of the presence of the photographer, her eyes were telling more than words.

A village on the outskirts of Varanasi
Varanasi is regarded as a holy city by Buddhists and Jains, and is the holiest place in the world in Hinduism. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in North India for several thousand years. People live there in very easy conditions and have to work hard to earn money the travel photographer encountered. Many find work in their own fields, other craft trades such as pottery, blacksmithing or carpentry and some families also have a small business of their own with which to finance themselves. Not only the adults have to do a lot of hard work, but also the children often have to help for several hours at a young age. However, their duties are often to guard their own cows and goats. Despite all this, there is a lot of poverty in the villages in India, as can be seen from the fact that most of the houses are made entirely of clay and the inhabitants have only the bare necessities and these experiences were allowed. He also did it personally, as he had the opportunity to spend an entire day in an Indian village, far away from a big city and then to stay in a family spot. A big difference to the city was that it had much less noise and noise and there was a hectic rush and also the air was much more pleasant.

This is an India photo of a man bathing near his home in the village
Man bathing near his home in the village. Argueably the biggest issue to the public health in India is inadequate access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation. With the population set to doble in fortyfive years, agricultural, industrial and domestic water usage are all expected to spiral. Ground water is being removed at an uncontrolled rate, which will result in a drop of the supplies of drinking water.

Color and character in India
Travel photography is a passion for the photographer, whose latest portraits from the Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh region of India are published in several series online. What he finds interesting is the cultural everyday life. Traditionally, Indian villages follow the 'Panchayat' or headman system, which offers equal opportunity to women and men to be a part of and contribute to the village administration. Village life in India is simple and the village folk not only dress simply, but also display simplicity in their meals and work life. In contrast to the abstract cultural homogeneity of a formal culture region, a functional culture region may not be culturally homogeneous. Instead, it is an area that has been organized to function politically, socially, or economically as one unit such as a city, an independent state, a precinct, a church diocese or parish, a trade area or a farm. Functional culture regions have nodes or central points where the functions are coordinated and directed, such as in villages. In that sense, functional regions also possess a core-periphery configuration, in common with formal culture regions. Many functional regions have clearly defined borders that include all land under the jurisdiction of a particular urban government that is clearly delineated on a regional map by a line distinguishing between one jurisdiction and another. A cultural region, cultural sphere, cultural area or culture area refers to a geography with one relatively homogeneous human activity or complex of activities and cultural spheres of influence may also overlap or form concentric structures of macrocultures encompassing smaller local cultures. Different boundaries may also be drawn depending on the particular aspect of interest, such as religion and folklore.

In the villages color is also seen and it is the visual perceptual property corresponding in humans and in villages and Hindu artists use color on the deities and their dresses signifying their qualities. Proper use of colors creates an environment, which should keep a person cheerful. Some of the main colors used in religious ceremonies are red, yellow in a turmeric style, green from leaves, white from wheat flour. Colors with special importance include red, which signals sensuality and purity and it is often seen on brides at wedding ceremonies. Turmeric is a spice that comes from the turmeric plant and it is commonly used in Asian food and you probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavor or color curry powders, mustards, butters and cheeses.

This is an India photo from a village near Varanasi
Photo of the Varuna River. The Varuna River is a minor tributary of the Ganges River. It is named after the god Varuna.

Village life in India in general
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. Though often located in rural areas like in this blog post with the photos near Varanasi, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighborhoods. Villages are normally permanent, with fixed dwellings, however, transient villages can occur. Further, the dwellings of a village are fairly close to one another, not scattered broadly over the landscape, as a dispersed settlement. In the past, villages were a usual form of community for societies that practise subsistence agriculture, and also for some non-agricultural societies.

The Industrial Revolution attracted people in larger numbers to work in mills and factories, the concentration of people caused many villages to grow into towns and cities. This also enabled specialization of labor and crafts, and development of many trades. As the photographer has seen, the trend of urbanization continues, though not always in connection with industrialization. Villages have been eclipsed in importance as units of human society and settlement. Although many patterns of village life have existed, the typical village was small, consisting of perhaps five to thirty families. Homes were situated together for sociability and defence, and land surrounding the living quarters was farmed. Traditional fishing villages were based on artisan fishing and located adjacent to fishing grounds.

This is an India photo of the banks of the Varuna River
Activities at the banks of the Varuna River. In Hindu mythology, Varuna continued to be considered the god of all forms of the water element, particularly the oceans. Rivers are also affected by the runoff as mentioned earlier in this blog post. And the Ganges, which also flows to the Varuna, is among the most polluted rivers on earth.

The approach in his India photography
When the photographer is working on location in India he always exercises sensitivity when taking photos of people, especially of women. "- My generally philosophy is to strive to be original in my approach to taking pictures. My aim is to tell a story and to make the viewer connect or identity with that particular image. It could be anything, from a young woman with a striking, haunting face, to idle landscapes in remote regions of Uttar Pradesh. I think that there is beauty in the most mundane things - it is reavealing that is the key. It is all about making my ideas for a photo happen, and to photograph with respect", the photographer says.

History of Uttar Pradesh in India
Long time ago Uttar Pradesh was associated with two new religions with Jainism and Buddhism. It was at Sarnath that Buddha preached his first sermon and laid the foundations of his order and it was in Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, where Buddha breathed his last. Several centres in Uttar Pradesh like Ayodhya, Prayag, Varanasi and Mathura became reputed centres of learning and in the medieval period, Uttar Pradesh passed under Muslim rule and led the way to new synthesis of Hindu and Islamic cultures. The state preserved its intellectual excellency even under the British administration, where they combined Agra and Oudh into one province and called it United Provinces of Agra and Oudh and the name was shortened to the United Provinces in 1935 and in 1950, the United Provinces was renamed as Uttar Pradesh. The state is bounded by the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh as well as Nepal in the north, Haryana in the west, Madhya Pradesh in the south and Bihar in the east.

Uttar Pradesh are two distinct regions
As a phtographer and traveler in this region one can see that Uttar Pradesh can be divided into two distinct regions, Southern hills and Gangetic plain. Uttar Pradesh is one place with risky drivers having no understanding of the lanes on the road whatsoever. You can, however, still find very decent drivers amongst such a mess and the only way to glide through swiftly amidst the intense network of roads of Uttar Pradesh is if you have an experienced driver with a lot of patience. It is advised that a tourist traveling here for the first time you should not be scared, the roads of Uttar Pradesh will not be your worst experience in India, but a little precaution and investment will leave you beautiful memories of a lifetime.

Cuisine of the region in India
The cuisine consists of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Uttar Pradesh has been greatly influenced by Mughal cooking techniques. The Awadhi cuisine of Uttar Pradesh bears similarities to those of Kashmir and Punjab and the state is famous for its Nawabi foods of Lucknow and environs and use of mutton, paneer and rich spices including cardamom and saffron and it is most famous dishes with various mutton recipes. The Chaat, Samosa and Pakora, among the most popular snacks in all of India, are also originally from Uttar Pradesh. Awadhi is a type of West-Central Uttar Pradeshi cuisine found in the state's Awadh Region. Mughlai cuisine is also integral to Western and Central Uttar Pradesh's cuisine and Varanasi is another city where people live for eating, but more famous for Hindu Vegetarian styles which include Chaat, Tikki, Kachori and so on.

A local day worker preparing straps for a rickshaw in India
A local day worker preparing straps for a rickshaw. Most rickshaw pullers in the Indian capital are migrant laborers who have come to the city in the hope of earning a living for their families in poverty-stricken rural areas.

Rickshaws in India
Rickshaws or rickshas are a mode of human-powered transport, where a runner draws a two-wheeled cart which seats one or two persons. Rickshaws are commonly made with bamboo. The word 'Rickshaw' came from Asia where they were mainly used as means of transportation for the social elite. In recent times the use of rickshaws has been discouraged or outlawed in many countries due to concern for the welfare of rickshaw workers. A cycle-rickshaw is a pedal cycle with two rear wheels, supporting a bench seat for passengers. Most have a canopy that can be raised in wet weather, of lowered to provide extra space for luggage. Most of the big cities have passed out the cycle-rickshaw, but they are still the main means of local transport in many smaller towns. As with taxis and autorickshaws, fares must be agreed upon in advance. Locals invariably pay lower fares than foreigners, but considering the effort put in by the rickshaw-wallahs, it is hard to begrudge them a fem extra rupees.

This is an India photo of village houses that are made of bricks
Some of the village houses are made of bricks in this village in Uttar Pradesh. Known as UP, and often refered to as the cow belt or Hindu belt, India's most populated state covers the vast, sprawling plain of northern India.

India's rural houses
Many of the rural poor work the fields in agriculture and are employed by the few landowners who reside in their villages. Huts are usually constructed from mud blocks, roofs are thatched and the floors are covered with a mud and cow-dung paste that serves as a disinfectant. Houses supplied by the government are constructed with cement blocks or bricks, the floor is cement, and the roof is made of concrete or asbestos. Usually there is only one room in the house, but in some cases a half-wall may be built to separate out the kitchen.

Uttar Pradesh and agriculture
Uttar Pradesh has the largest population of nearly 167 million. It is also the fifth largest state in terms of land area and the western plain is the most urban region. Agriculture is the most important section of the UP’s economy, employing about three-fourths of the work force. Uttar Pradesh has the largest production of food grain and oil seeds in India. In addition, Uttar Pradesh ranks the first in the production of wheat, maize, barley, gram, sugar cane, and potatoes. The three most important industries of UP are sugar, cotton fabrics and diversified food preparations. Goods carrier equipment, photostat machines, chemicals, polyester fiber and steel tube galvanized sheets are the other industries of Uttar Pradesh. The Kathak dance style, the most popular classical dance form in India, is nourished in Uttar Pradesh. Today, foreign countries have also learned this elegant dance form to perfection and the countryside songs and dances are significant traits of local culture. Uttar Pradesh is famous for handicrafts such as carpet weaving, hand printing, Chikan a type of embroidery, metal enameling, brocade and brass and ebony work. Uttar Pradesh also has the biggest brass and copperware manufacture area in India. The history of the State of Uttar Pradesh is very ancient and interesting. It is recognised in the later Vedic Age as Brahmarshi desha or Madhya desha. Many great sages of the Vedic times like Bharadwaja, Gautam, Yagyavalkya, Vasishta, Vishwamitra and Valmiki flourished in this state. Several sacred books of the Aryans were also composed here and two great epics of India, Ramayana and Mahabharata, appear to have been inspired by Uttar Pradesh.

This is an India photo a mother bathing her child
A mother is bathing her child. Villagers begin the day with baths in the makeshift baths and eat only after worship at home and at the village temple. The women in the village are wearing saris. Indian fashion varies from one village to another village, from one city to another city. India's fashion heritage is rich in tradition, vibrant in colors and prepossessing.

Family life in India
Hindu attitudes towards family life can appear ambivalent, in which one loses all sense of spiritual direction and becomes hopelessly entrapped in an illusion. Other scriptural passages glorify responsible family life as the backbone of varnashrama-dharma society. Ideologically, these two poles are reconciled within the notion of the Grihasta, which means household also known as Ashram, based on the principle that material facilities can be utilised to cultivate spirituality and detachment. Many popular traditions hold that the spiritual merit attained within Sannyasa can also be achieved by properly executing household duties. The basic building block of Hindu society is the joint or extended family, usually consisting of three of four generations living together. The women collectively cook and share domestic responsibilities, and the men provide the pooled income. Elders take important decisions and, based on their own experience in life, offer guidance to younger members. Within the family, property usually passes from father to son, and men make many of the decisions, though older ladies carry considerable influence. When women marry, they usually join their husband’s family, though maintaining contact with their own. Hindu families demonstrate firm ties of affection, strikingly different from many Western families. Hindu scripture has elaborately defined the dynamics of the various relationships within families. For instance, a grandchild can tease and joke with a grandparent in a familiar way, not permissible with the father or mother. The different relatives are given specific terms of address, unlike the west where 'aunt' or 'uncle' refers to a whole host of relatives and family friends. The extended family traditionally provides shelter and support for the elderly, the disabled and the less well off.

Children are expected to repay the debt owed to their parents by supporting them in their retirement and old age. An important aspect of Hindu family life is the inter-dependence between members. Marriage itself is a broad social and religious obligation, rather than just a relationship between partners. The extended family provides considerable practical and emotional support, as for instance when children are born. One advantage is that marriage stability is not inordinately reliant on the state of the couple’s emotional ties. Despite these possible benefits, social trends indicate that the extended family is becoming less popular, especially outside India.Young couples often value the freedom that the nuclear family offers. They are also adopting other aspects of the Western lifestyle. TV is becoming more popular than worship, and is certainly strongly influencing family values.

Traveling with a camera
Kristian Bertel is a passionated travel photographer, who photograph life as he sees it through his lens. The work mostly consist of portraits, like in this blog post a portrait of the life in a village. "- To travel broadens my view of the world, where I get an insight look of how life is in different parts of the world", he says. His images from India have been shown online as photo essays - documenting many aspects of the daily life particularly in India. His photographic work consists of portraits of village life in India, like in this blog post with pictures from a village just outside the city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. He works as a travel photographer and he is available for editorial and travel assignments all over Europe, Asia, Africa and in the Middle East. For further information and inquiries please:
Contact the photographer

More photographs from India
If you are interested to see more photos and imagery from India, you can see one of the slideshows, which also appears on the photographer's website.
See the slideshow | press here

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