Homai Vyarawalla (9 December 1913 – 15 January 2012), commonly known by her pseudonym Dalda 13, was India's first woman photojournalist.[2][3] She began work in late 1930s and retired in the early 1970s. In 2011, she was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the Republic of India.[4][5]

Early life and education

Homai Vyarawalla was born on 9 December 1913[6][7][8] to a Parsi family in Navsari, Gujarat. Vyarawalla spent her childhood moving from place to place with her father's travelling theatre company[9]. After moving to Bombay, Homai Vyarawalla studied at Bombay University and the Sir J. J. School of Art.[10]

Personal life

Vyarawalla was married to Manekshaw Jamshetji Vyarawalla, an accountant and photographer for the Times of India.[11] In 1970, a year after her husband’s death, she gave up photography as she did not wish to work with the new generation paparazzi culture.[12] [13]

Homai Vyarawalla then moved to Pilani, Rajasthan, with her only son, Farouq who taught at BITS Pilani. She returned to Vadodara (formerly Baroda) with her son in 1982.[14] After her son's death from cancer in 1989, she lived alone in a small apartment in Baroda and spent her time gardening.[15]


Vyarawalla started her career in the 1930s. At the onset of the World War II, she started working on assignments for the Mumbai-based The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine which published many of her black and white images that later became iconic.[16] In the early years of her career, since Vyarawalla was unknown and a woman, her photographs were published under her husband's name.[17]

Eventually her photography received notice at the national level, particularly after moving to Delhi in 1942 to join the British Information Services, where she photographed many political and national leaders in the period leading up to independence, including Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Indira Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi family while working as a press photographer.[17]

Her favourite subject was Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India.

Most of her photographs were published under the pseudonym "Dalda 13″. The reasons behind her choice of this name were that her birth year was 1913, she met her husband at the age of 13 and her first car's number plate read "DLD 13″[18].

In 1970, shortly after her husband's death, Homai Vyarawalla decided to give up photography lamenting over the "bad behaviour" of the new generation of photographers.[19] She did not take a single photograph in the last 40-plus years of her life. When asked why she quit photography while at the peak of her profession, she said

"It was not worth it anymore. We had rules for photographers; we even followed a dress code. We treated each other with respect, like colleagues. But then, things changed for the worst. They [the new generation of photographers] were only interested in making a few quick bucks; I didn't want to be part of the crowd anymore."[16]

Later in life, Vyarawalla gave her collection of photographs to the Delhi-based Alkazi Foundation for the Arts.

In 2010, the National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai (NGMA) in collaboration with the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts presented a retrospective of her work.[16]

Google honoured her legacy on her 104th Birth Anniversary with a doodle, as "First Lady of the Lens".[20] The doodle was drawn by the guest doodler and Mumbai artist Sameer Kulavoor.


In January 2012, Vyarawalla fell from her bed and fractured a hip bone. Her neighbours had helped her reach a hospital where she developed breathing complications. She had been suffering from interstitial lung disease which resulted in her death at 10.30 am on 15 January 2012.[21]


  1. ^ "India's first woman photojournalist, a chronicler of history". The Indian Express. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2017. 
  2. ^ Pandya, Haresh (29 January 2012). "Homai Vyarawalla, Indian Photojournalist, Dies at 99". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 16 September 2017. 
  3. ^ "Homai Vyarawalla: India's First Female Photojournalist #IndianWomenInHistory". Feminism in India. 2017-03-24. Retrieved 2017-09-17. 
  4. ^ "An iconic observer – The curious life and times of Homai Vyarawalla". The Telegraph. 23 January 2011. 
  5. ^ "Homai gets Padma Vibhushan - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2017-12-11. 
  6. ^ "Magazine / Personality : India through her eyes". The Hindu. 12 March 2006. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "The Times of India on Mobile". M.timesofindia.com. 9 December 1913. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "Photojournalism: Arthur Fellig (Weegee) and Homai Vyarawalla". Mendeley. 9 December 1913. doi:10.1080/17512780802560823. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  9. ^ Pandya, Haresh (2012). "Homai Vyarawalla, Indian Photojournalist, Dies at 98". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-16. 
  10. ^ "Homai gets Padma Vibhushan". The Times of India. 25 January 2011. 
  11. ^ Pandya, Haresh (2012). "Homai Vyarawalla, Indian Photojournalist, Dies at 98". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-09-16. 
  12. ^ Cotter, Holland (2012-08-23). "'Candid,' Photos by Homai Vyarawalla, at Rubin Museum". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-09. 
  13. ^ Pandya, Haresh (2012). "Homai Vyarawalla, Indian Photojournalist, Dies at 98". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-09. 
  14. ^ "Homai Vyarawalla: First lady of the lens". Retrieved 2017-09-16. 
  15. ^ Sabeena., Gadihoke, (2010). India in focus : camera chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla. Vyarawalla, Homai. New Delhi: Mapin Publishing in association with Parzor Foundation. ISBN 1935677071. OCLC 868304226. 
  16. ^ a b c "Meet India's first lady photographer Homai Vyarawalla". Rediff.com. 3 March 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Gadihoke, Sabeena. "Homai Vyarawalla: India's First Female Photojournalist". Time. Retrieved 2017-09-16. 
  18. ^ "Homai Vyarawalla: First lady of the lens". Retrieved 2017-09-16. 
  19. ^ Haresh Pandya, "Homai Vyarawalla, Pioneering Indian Photojournalist, Dies at 98", New York Times, 29 January 2012.
  20. ^ Kalam, M (2017-12-09). "Homai Vyarawalla: Google Doodle celebrates India's first female photojournalist". TechObserver. Retrieved 2017-12-08. 
  21. ^ Vyarawalla, Homai. "India's first woman photojournalist dead". timesofindia.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 17 January 2012. 
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