Published: 06th September 2017
A matter of GRAVE CONCERN: All you need to know about Taphophila, the art of finding peace at the cemeteries
This concept, that is widely accepted in the western countries, is now knocking at India's doors. Hari Bhagirath is one of the few who has sported the idea of spending some quality time at the graves
Have you ever noticed that most of the seven wonders have some connection to the dead and hence to the graves? The pyramids of Egypt and our very own Taj Mahal are all about remembering the departed. "With all these important structures, can you deny that cemeteries play an important role in our lives?" asks Hari Bhagirath, one of whose favourite hobbies is to collect photographs of various cemeteries from around the world.
"The dead are one of the best listeners. The strange feeling that a grave is the last stop and everything in between is just temporary makes you think about yourself. It is a lot of self-introspection that can be useful and stays with you all your life. It has art and salvation, that's what we look for as human beings"
Hari Bhagirath, a taphophile
"There is a poetic beauty attached to every grave, every cemetery," he says, explaining why the cemetery in Hosur, Bengaluru is the place where he finds peace in the ever chaotic and traffic-packed streets of the city.
"I have shot cemeteries from around the world but there is something about the city. I think the cemeteries express a complete contrast to what the city is. And that makes it beautiful," says Hari, who has shot Dutch and British cemeteries in Kochi and Bengaluru among several others.
Chills and thrils: According to Hari, Tapophilia has a long way to go in India
Talking about the connection between cemeteries and photography, Hari says that a cemetery is a full package for anyone who likes photography. "There is history, there is architecture. You have the correct texture and you also have the whole place to yourself. What more does a photographer desire?" he asks cheekily, as he throws yet another question that satiates our doubts. But not all of them.
Taphophiles are usually confused with necrophiles. While the latter are sexually attracted to dead bodies, taphophilia is just a form of art that believes in exploring peace and mapping the historical importance of the graves
Hari is well aware of the stigma attached to visiting graveyards and cemeteries. He also knows that they are looked at as places to be scared of rather than places where one can find peace. But when these doubts cloud his thoughts, he remembers a lesson that his photography teacher taught him in 2011.
Shoot it: Hari Bhagirath, who is a Chief creative officer with a MMA firm likes to shoot at cemetries round the globe
"I remember my teacher telling me that only those who are alive can harm the living. I believe in it and I have spent loads of time in a cemetery and have never felt any negative energy. All we need to do it respect the place and what it is about," he says.
It all started when I went there with my friends when I was drunk. It was for fun. But, there was something about the place. The peace, the quiet. it was intriguing. And I started researching the various types of cemeteries in the country. I wasn't aware that this has a term because it is difficult to convince people that I am not a creep. So if you call this taphophilia, then I am a taphophile
Anupam Gupta, a banker from Delhi
However, he admits that photography in a cemetery is not very popular in India and has a long way to go. That's one of the reasons that he doesn't do it for the money.
They don't care: Taphophiles believe that there is no taboo to find calm and peace at the cemeteries
"India is a sensitive country. People need to open up and be flexible about their religion before such things can happen without risking anyone's life," says Hari, who doesn't like to restrict his art form by calling himself a taphophile — a term used to describe people who like to spend time in cemeteries.
These individuals might be taphophiles either for the love of research, curiosity or merely in the virtue of finding peace. If you fall into the last category, you will enjoy the peace there. And if you are into research, you might find graves of famous people around the world that even your textbooks could never teach you about.