Homai Vyarawalla may have caught some of the 20th century’s most prominent figures in her lens, but from the 1940s through the 1960s in New Delhi, she was a familiar sight herself. Biking to assignments with a sari sailing behind her and equipment bags on her shoulders, India’s first female photojournalist stood out among her male colleagues. But it was her electric images of India’s independence movement and candid shots of such people as the Dalai Lama, Mohandas K. Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. that earned Vyarawalla lasting recognition.
Born in Navsari, Gujarat in 1913, Vyarawalla spent much of her childhood on the road due to her father’s role in a traveling theater company. Landing in Bombay (now Mumbai), Vyarawalla began photographing day-to-day life in the city, eventually earning an art school degree and becoming a professional photographer.
In 1942, Vyarawalla secured a position at the British Information Services in New Delhi. There, she snapshotted the meeting where Congress members voted for the partition of India. Vyarawalla went on to document many important moments in the country’s journey to independence and chronicled everything from Gandhi’s cremation to the Dalai Lama’s entrance into India.
In 2010, Vyarawalla earned the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor. Today’s Doodle honors India’s “First Lady of the Lens” on what would have been her 104th birthday with a tapestry of Indian life and history drawn by guest Doodler and Mumbai artist Sameer Kulavoor. Vyarawalla is at the center.
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