Premgit: intrepid traveller and master photographer

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Premgit’s journey to India, his life on the Ranch and how he became one of Osho’s photographers – by Veena.

Premgit lives with his beautiful partner, Sandhya, on Dartmoor in Devon. If, according to Osho, sannyas is living life totally, squeezing the juice from every moment, then these two are truly sannyasins! Premgit needs a whole book to be written about him so it is difficult to compress all that has to be said into the space allotted on the website – please bear with me.

Photo opportunity, Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, India 2010
Even sadhus have cameras these days. Pilgrimage town of Amarkantak, India 2010
Premgit crossing murky waters in the jungle north of Muang Sing, Laos
Premgit, at the foot of the glorious Nanda Devi, Indian Himalayas

In 1977 Premgit and his then wife flew into a volatile, uneasy Kabul in Afghanistan on an Ariana Afghan flight just before the king was thrown out and the Russians moved in. They finally made it into Kashmir where they spent three months. Premgit was blown away by India and the couple were back again within a few months.

The first stop this time was Poona – to go to the Iyengar Yoga Ashram. Instead the rickshaw driver took them to the Rajneesh Ashram in Koregaon Park which they had never heard of. Curiously they got out of the rickshaw and found a happy looking bunch of people, so kind and so welcoming that it was all too much and they turned round and fled to Goa.

After a few months in that wild paradise everything they had was stolen except for the clothes they were wearing and their passports. With no money they had no idea what to do so they decided to walk out of Goa and see what happened. They ended up walking barefoot down the western coast of India. In those days the local Indians had never seen a western person so they were welcomed and fed wherever they went until they got to Cochin where they found £20 waiting for them in an envelope in the Post Restante box in the local post office. In those days £20 was a fortune and lasted the next few months while they worked their way north through the Kerala jungle with the monsoon raging around them. But by the time they got to Hampi Premgit was seriously ill with amoebas in his liver and nearly died.

This was a turning point. He says that, on his recovery, he had a strong feeling that he had to do something that really scared him and the only thing that really freaked him out was that ashram in Poona! So that’s where they went. This time things were totally different. They had been to a number of other ashrams in south India but, as he entered the ‘Gateless Gate‘, he felt a total YES yelling inside himself. This was IT – and from then on this was the only place to be.

Initially he worked as a guard, spending the magical Indian nights roaming the ashram properties with a great bunch of people. Later he became a samurai guarding Osho in Lao Tzu.

At this time his love of photography, which he had got into as a teenager, was put on hold – anyway his camera had been stolen in Goa.

On the ranch in the USA he worked first in construction and then took over the operation of the concrete truck becoming the famous Motorola ‘Rainbow’. Locating people in the huge expanse of Rajneeshpuram was always a problem so key people had Motorola radios which were on all the time and one could hear all the messages being passed from one individual to another across the 125 square mile ranch. ‘Rainbow come in?!’ I remember it clearly.

After Osho left Rajneeshpuram Premgit stayed on to work in the USA and bought a camera with his first earnings. He also bought a ticket for India as he felt instinctively that Osho would be back there. He was right. He arrived in Mumbai the day after Osho had arrived and, with few people there, it was a beautiful, intimate time. But it was also great to reunite with friends when Osho moved back to Poona and sannyasins raced to return.

Back being a guard, he was one day asked by the photographic department if he would take photos of Osho during discourse. There were always at least two photographers as well as the video camera man taking photos during discourses. His debut was a disaster – not a single photo came out!! He has no idea what happened but as it was well known that bizarre things happened to machines around Osho, nobody was bothered and he soon became a regular.

So good was he that Osho decided to give him a special assignment. This of course meant Trouble with a capital T. Osho decided he wanted a special shot: a profile of himself after the evening discourse, lined up with the Buddha at the entrance of Buddha Hall, lined up with sannyasins dancing in the background – and no flash to be used. This is called ‘asking the impossible’ as there were 3 different lighting situations for the photographer and the big mosquito net around the hall effectively obscured the sannyasins dancing in the background. Premgit had to ride in the back seat of the car with Osho and had a split second to take the photos as the car rolled past the Buddha statue. He managed to take 6 shots which he was not at all satisfied with – but acknowledges that it was probably a device for him rather than the photographs that Osho was interested in!

After Osho died, Premgit and Sandhya returned to England, to Dartmoor, and for about 8 years worked together making (Sandhya) and selling (Premgit) candles at fairs and markets around the country. At the same time he was taking and printing photographs to acquire the kind of portfolio necessary to embark on a professional career based on taking and selling the photographs HE chose, rather than doing commissions for other people. In 1998 he felt he was ready to launch his career.

Selling in markets, fairs and over the internet, he was immediately successful and improved earnings allowed him to go off on annual photographic expeditions which have resulted in a quite phenomenally diverse collection of photographs – people and places – of India, Mexico, South Africa, Madeira, Spain, Morocco, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos and northern Thailand in addition to the ones of his beloved Dartmoor. The visual richness of his website is breathtaking.

His photographs have an iridescence, a depth, a meditative quality that for me have gone beyond being just photographs and have become what Osho calls ‘Objective Art’.

“In the West, perhaps Gurdjieff is the only man who has divided art into two sections: the objective art and the subjective art. Subjective art is from the mind, and is out of anguish. Objective art – the Taj Mahal, the caves of Ellora and Ajanta, the temples of Khajuraho – has come from meditative people. Out of their love, out of their silence, they wanted to share; it is their contribution to the world.”

excerpt from Osho, The Golden Future, Chapter #23


Veena is the author of a trilogy of books about her path to and with Osho.

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