Once a year, Dewa dazzles. The tiny town, 25 kilometres south of Lucknow, is host to Dewa Mela, an annual 10-day fair marking the urs, or death anniversary, of revered Sufi saint Haji Waris Ali Shah. Thousands turn up to pay homage, but also to have fun, flirt, laugh and get entertained. Locals from Dewa, Lucknow and even far-flung villages of Uttar Pradesh throng the fairground to partake in the frenzy typical to fairs across India. All mela hallmarks find place here. Boat rides, giant Ferris wheels, tacky photo studios, and loudspeakers blaring 90s Hindi songs, vie for your attention and money. Ditto for pop-up stalls selling melt-in-the-mouth Lucknowi kebabs or the ultra-sugary, orange halwa served alongside steaming hot parathas. Then there’s the thrill of rooting for wrestlers battling it out in the mud, or motorcycle riders, some of them salwar kameez-clad women, raging in the Wall of Death. Balloons here can be both bought and shot at, for Dewa Mela is home to at least a dozen rifle-shooting booths.
Rahul Misra is a portrait and travel photographer based in Mumbai who focuses on editorial and advertising work. Having photographed some renowned faces in Hollywood and Bollywood, Rahul continues his passion for photography as a fine art.