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Friday, March 2, 2012

Honouring Pepita

Year was 1970, a young woman from a far away land, set foot on India, inspired by her soldier great grandfather’s diary of 1857. She was then working in the film field and had worked with many renowned directors. That was her first visit to the blessed land of “Bharat”. Then again in 1972 she returned to India, but this time to “Kerala”, the god’s own country. That was the beginning of a hard core relationship between a state and an angel, who fell in love with the culture of Kerala. She is Smt. Pepita Seth, born and brought up in England. In honour of her contributions to the state of Kerala, she was awarded with “Padma Shri”. She never had a proper educational background, as she put it “In my family education was only for boys not for girls”. She devoured books at young age.
Smt Pepita Seth with her book" Heavens on earth"

By 2000, she forever left her home-land for the love of India and Kerala’s art forms, but till 2000 her life was kind of in-between India and England . With her previous experience with cameras, (in 1994) she roamed Malabar area of Kerala taking photos of “Theyyams” (an art form of deity worship, which is renowned for its intensity). Those times she was living with different families, that too free of charge. She herself told in an interview how those wonderful people treated her as a member of the family. Her success lies where her ability to blend in. She never tried to see things from a foreigner’s perspective, when she took photos of “Theyyams” she tried to wear their perspective of the art, how they feel at the time of performance, how the transformation from ordinary to divinity occurs and how the people around conceive it. She was always one of them. She knew that this art form holds a special place in the peoples’ heart, unlike others she never considered it simply as an entertainment. Her photographs opened Kerala’s own universe of rituals to the outside world.

In 1981 she received official permission to enter all temples in the state. Smt. Pepita, a humble and down to earth lady, who is also a fervent devotee of Guruvayoorappan(Lord Sri Krishna, as he is the guardian of Guruvayoor (a place in kerala)), is currently involved in portraying the ritualistic and mythical beauty of famous “Guruvayoorappan temple” and publish it as a book. Her photographs of legendry tusker, “Guruvayoor Kesavan” (temple elephant) made her famous and more acceptable among common people. One can see those photographs before entering the Nalambalam of Guruvayoor temple. She shared a special connection with Guruvayoor Kesavan. She is honoured with this year’s Padmashri award for literature and Education. She is also the author of famous Heaven on Earth: the Universe of Kerala's Guruvayoor temple, which she humbly dedicated to Guruvayoorappan . She is now a resident of Thrissur (Kerala). Very soon her snaps of Guruvayoor Kesavan are going to be on postal stamp as a  proof that she now a part of India and in honour of her undeniable services to the society.
Heaven on earth
Reflections of spirit (book cover)