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Bahi | Tracing My Ancestors

In a tiny room somewhere on the banks of the Ganga, wave upon wave of humanity is captured in tightly wound scrolls. Known as Bahis, these are part of a recordkeeping tradition like no other.  

For centuries, in the inner worlds of Haridwar, thumbprints, signatures and handwritten notes have allowed families to map their ancestral origins. These records are maintained exclusively by a generation of pandits known as Teerth Purohits.  

As young boys of the community perform their morning prayers to the mother Goddess, they are both heirs and witnesses to the footprints of time. For the Bahis use the rituals along the banks of the Ganga as their main point of reference, documenting births, deaths and associated traditions within families great and small.

Men and women have, since time immemorial, flocked to the holy river to mark the most pivotal moments of their lives. Locked in ink, these moments take on a different dimension. As elderly Jajmans (seekers of these services) hear of a long-lost great grandfather offering flowers to the boisterous current, the spirit of a collective memory awakens in their eyes. 

Stirred by the touch of a forefather they have never seen, the idea of eternity becomes a tangible truth, and their outstretched arms receive it with great devotion in the form of a handwritten note.

Whispers of generations past are carefully bundled up and stacked to the ceiling in special rooms called Gaddis. Each Gaddi has records of over twenty generations in ink and paper.    

The ancient tradition is, however, far from immune to the very thing it documents – time.  

Today, these records are at risk of withering away. Perhaps because, despite being much more than a library – they are an experience, a gateway, a humble obeisance to those who came before us they are at the end of the day, scrolls of ink and paper. Vulnerable to the march of chemicals, of modernity, of apathy.

As the internet age engulfs their lives, the younger generations of Teerth Purohits reckon with their place in the world, in the cycle of time, and in the shadow of their Ma Ganga.

Their work is no longer about tracing the past, but about defying the promise and the warning of a digital future.


Writer & Director:
Rachita Gorowala
Director of Photographer:
Sudeep Elamon
Original Soundtrack & Vocals:
Aditya Rao
Sayan Debnath, Christy Sebastian
Writer & Researcher:
Soity Banerjee
Creative Team:
Shreeppriya Gopalakrishnan, Anagha Achrekar
Mixing & Mastering Engineer:
P.A. Deepak
Voice Artist:
Rohan S Kamath
Sound Recordist:
Ankit Thapa
Yash Khaire
Second Unit:
Vinayak Gopal
Associate Cinematographer:
Sreekesh Chandrabhanu
Camera Crew:
Prakash Bamne
Local Line Production:
Purshotam Sharma, Harshul Sharma
Executive Producer:
Lynette Dmello
For Studio Virtual Bharat
Jawahar Sharma
Rachana Dubey
Kiran Santra
Krishika Gandhi
Darshit Dalvi
Pratik Basankar
Shamika Vedak
Trupti Amrite
Kannan Rajaram
A. Murugesan
Ghanshyam Patil
Produced By Studio Virtual Bharat

Behind The Scenes