CHARIOTS OF FROLIC #5

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  • Artist Sameer Raichur

     

    Tamil Nadu, India I 2017

    Chariots of Frolic #1 'Kumaresan'

    I vividly recall walking the streets of Arni, Tamil Nadu on a sweltering hot evening, temperatures here can touch 45 degree c in the summer. I was on assignment to document the lives of Sari weaving artisans in this town that has become a cost effective production outpost for the famous Kanchipuram sari. The sound of the looms I was around all day, was still ringing in my ears when I encountered my first chariot of frolic – loosely translated from it’s Tamil name “Ullasa ratham”

    A curious juxtaposition of the medieval and postmodern, the vehicle was essentially an iconic Fiat Premier-Padmini car modified to resemble a chariot. Anandan, the chariot’s driver informed me that his duty for the night was to pick up a bride and groom from a nearby Ganesha temple and drive them to their wedding reception hall.


    An embodiment of Indian jugaad, these vehicles are spectacles of low-cost innovation. They are fabricated using discarded cars sold at scrap prices that are no longer in production. Fabricators then remove the rear seat to accommodate an elevated platform on which a sofa or chairs are placed for the bride and the groom to facilitate a wedding reception on wheels. The platform has an ornate background referred to locally as a ‘disco’ which is made of papier- mâché decoration around a fiber board housing LED or tungsten bulbs. The lighting is powered by a generator tucked away in the trunk of the car.

    The vehicles are photographed at night to accentuate its most unique feature –the ‘disco’. Considering they are usually observed in crowded processions, I consciously presented these cars devoid of human presence. The quiet settings are a tranquil remnant of the chaotic celebrations that the vehicles facilitated.