Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Beacons on water: Artist travels around India to paint lighthouses

Five expeditions involving driving 35,000 kilometres as well as a few jaunts in the waters: that’s what it took for artist Mohan Khare to document all the lighthouses hugging India’s coastline, before he could bring them all to life in his watercolour works.

“Lighthouses have always fascinated me — maybe it’s their history, the many secrets they seem to hold, the stories of the people they house and the lives they’ve saved. Or maybe it’s the brooding romance of them standing tall and flashing a light of comfort and hope to a weary seafarer out on the dark waves,” begins Khare, who specialises in marine art and has many of his works on permanent display at various defence establishments in the country.

He adds, “When I set out to research lighthouses, I spaced my expeditions over a few years. I drove around in my car, and visited seaside towns and hamlets unmarked on tourist maps, capturing on camera the vibrant coastal life, be it fisherfolk, boat builders, ships, dhows, flora and fauna and, of course, lighthouses. It was also quite something to understand the lives of lighthouse keepers that is cut off from civilisation.”

Mohan Khare
Mohan Khare

Khare mentions that some of his journeys were risky, yet fulfilling. Moreover, he returned with a lifetime’s worth of stories to tell. He shares, “On a trip covering all of Gujarat’s lighthouses, I stopped at a tea stall in Dwarka to ask for directions to a particular lighthouse. The villagers were most eager to help; the only problem was that each contradicted the other. I was growing increasingly unsure of finding the lighthouse, when I spotted a lone cow coming my way. I bowed to her and said, ‘Gomata, maare Dwarka ni divadaandi jawaa maate seedho rasto janawjo (Gujarati: please show me the correct route to the lighthouse)’. She turned her head left and mooed. Without waiting to ask anyone else, I got into my car and drove left, and, believe it or not, reached the lighthouse in no time.”

Khare hopes that the exhibition, his fifth solo, will spark a deeper interest in lighthouses as well as the life around them.

Till: October 3, 11 am to 7 pm
At: Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda.
Log on to:

Kanhoji Angre Island Lighthouse, Maharashtra
Earlier known as Khanderi Island Lighthouse, this is an important landmark at the entrance to Mumbai Harbour, situated opposite Thal fishing port in Alibaug. There is a fort on the island, which was built by the Marathas. In fact, the lighthouse gets its new name from Maratha naval warrior Kanhoji Angre, who fought and won a number of sea battles in the 18th century.

Tolkeshwar Point Lighthouse, Maharashtra
The lighthouse that stands at Tolkeshwar Point was constructed between 1956 and 1958. It is situated atop a hill looking over Vashishti River, which is navigable up to Chiplun using small boats. The lighthouse has to be approached from Chiplun town via Anjanwel village (60 km away).

Jakhau Lighthouse, Gujarat
Jakhau was an important port in Gujarat until a port came up in Mandvi in the 16th century. All the traffic was soon diverted to Mandvi, and the port at Jakhau fell into disuse. However, in the 1950s, large-scale salt pans were constructed at Jakhau, following which the port was revived and developed to handle the export of raw salt to Japan and Korea. At this point, it became imperative to provide a powerful light source in the area, and it got this lighthouse in 1965.

from travel

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