Artist Mohan Khare Holds Solo Exhibition ‘LightHouses’ At Jehangir Art Gallery

Kanhoji Angre Light House

Artist Mohan Khare Solo Exhibition Inaugurated by Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba; Open till Sunday Oct 2nd…A Must see

 Mohan Khare presenting a Painting of the 'Kanhoji Angre Lighthouse' to Chief of The Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba.

Mohan Khare presenting a Painting of the ‘Kanhoji Angre Lighthouse’ to Chief of The Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba.

Artist Mohan Khare Speaks… His passion in  own words

Though my exhibits will speak for myself and my art today, I wish to throw some light on how it all came together. As an artist, I have painted many subjects – I especially had a liking for seascapes. In this, one thing that fascinated me was lighthouses – their design, history, the scale of human ability and creativity…knowing more about them was almost a hobby… and I discovered that some grand lighthouses were right here in our own country. India has 7,000 km of fantastic coastline from Jakhau in Kutch all the way up to Sagar island in West Bengal plus Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep group of islands. This entire coastline is dotted with about 200 Lighthouses… many, more than a century old. The fascination grew into an obsession – to visit all the lighthouses up and down the coast. So I just did it.

It took me five expeditions – almost 35,000 km by road and many nautical miles in Andaman & Nicobar Islands – some of it in such rickety boats, in poor weather, tricky waters –that I managed it is only thanks to divine protection, and the people in the DGLL and the Indian Coast Guard, who extended all their cooperation and support in all my lighthouse expeditions. – even though they must have thought I am partly out of my mind – since no one had done this kind of thing visiting Lighthouses by road – Credit also goes to my wife, Seema, who put up with all my, as I term it, vedepana. It did feel like vedepana sometimes… but what an unforgettable experience it all was… in terms of the changing landscapes, the food, the culture, and of course, the language mix-ups and other encounters… Like when I went to visit Malpe Island Lighthouse, about 7 km from Udipi on the Karnataka coast.

I asked a few boatmen to take me & my friends – Ramesh Joshi, Bhushan – there. They all were ready to do the trip – but to the other island, frequented by young lovebirds from nearby Udipi and Manipal. On questioning them, they said that Malpe Island is actually the kingdom of two bullocks. Seems that they had been abandoned on the island byfarmers from a nearby village long ago and now the bullocks guard their territory ferociously, attacking any visitor to the island. Then a senior boatman advised me to carry some vegetables and bananas with me as a peace offering to the bulls –it worked; bullocks happily feasted, and I could happily photograph the old and the new lighthouses undisturbed.

Then, on a trip covering all the lighthouses in Gujarat, we [my sister in law Sudha & her husband Ajit were accompanying me] stopped at a teashop in Dwarka to ask the route to the lighthouse. The villagers were most eager to help – except that each contradicted the other on the right way to the diwa daandi.  We were becoming increasingly unsure of finding the lighthouse and quite exasperated. Then I spotted a lone cow coming my way. So I bowed to her and asked, “Gomata, Mare Dwarka ni divadaandi jawamate seedho rasto janawajo”. (Dear holy cow, please show me the correct route to the lighthouse).She turned her head left and mooed. We just got into the car without asking anyone anything more….I took a left turn and reached the Lighthouse in no time!

Equally amazing is the human story at these lighthouses of the lighthouse keepers and their solitary lives… and yet the pride they take in keeping the light burning for seafarers.

At the Piram Island lighthouse in gulf of Khambat, Mr. Makwana, the keeper mentioned how a sparrow kept him from feeling lonely. Seems one day at lunch, this sparrow appeared there; so he tossed it a piece of his rotli. It ate it and flew off; next day, came back with another sparrow, at the same time for piece of roti. They had their fill of food, went away. And since then, the sparrow has always come, same time, every day. And it did on the day I was there too, like clockwork.

When I visited Devgarh lighthouse with my friend Ganesh, we met Mr. Bhide, a Senior Lighthouse Keeper. In conversation, Ganesh asked him, “Don’t you feel afraid in this remote place, totally cut off from civilization?” Mr. Bhide said, “Have you heard the Sanskrit Shloka TAMASO MA JYOTIRGAMAYA?” meaning: from darkness, lead me to light! He said, “This Vastu gives light to guide the people…how can it put fear in the mind of a person who has the privilege of being the keeper?”

These lighthouse keepers totally deserve a salute for their exemplary work and dedication. Today, with GPS (Global Positioning System), the general thinking is that these old ‘Sentinels’ have become outdated, but in fact, in India, many lighthouses have been equipped with modern monitoring systems and are playing a key role as guardians of our coastline and guides to seafarers.

These beautiful structures are not relics; they are treasures to cherish, preserve, to learn from and be proud of … In the US, at Cape Hattaras, due to erosion of the shore, they moved the whole lighthouse plus the keepers’ houses 2 km inland! In India, at the Indira Point Lighthouse at the southernmost point of Great Nicobar Island….the tsunami struck… now it is submerged and there was widespread destruction there. Now is it possible to reclaim land from the sea or do something else and save it and its ecological system? I do hope we can…
The way I see it, lighthouses are symbols of our maritime heritage –preserving them and their ecology as an inspiration for generations to come is important too. So, it is great news that the Government of India has decided to bring 78 lighthouses under the tourism umbrella. Hopefully, my exhibition of paintings of lighthouses will help in a way to spark off real interest in and appreciation for these majestic sentinels of our coastline, and also the human life and culture around them.

Personally, these lighthouses have been a high point in my journey as an artist. Painting them has helped me really evolve as a marine artist and it has brought acknowledgement for my art, especially with painting assignments from the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guards.

I can only say, long live the Seafarers, long live the Lighthouses!