Dalda 13: India’s first female photographer

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Dalda 13: India's first female photographer

India’s first female photographer was ‘Dalda 13’. Yes, you heard it right – ‘Dalda 13’. We are not talking about vegetable ghee, rather we are talking about India’s first female photojournalist. Homi Vyarawala, popularly known as Dalda 13, was active as a photojournalist for almost forty years. Let us know about India’s first female photojournalist Homi Vyarawala through this article.

Birth and Personal life

Homi Vyarawala was born on December 9, 1913 in a Parsi family. He was born in Navsari, Gujarat. His father worked in Parsi theatre. His family moved from Navsari to Mumbai (then Bombay) during his childhood. He completed his schooling in Mumbai itself. During this time, he learned photography from his friend Manekshaw Vyarawala, whom he later married. At the time of marriage, Manekshaw Vyarawala was working as an accountant and photographer at The Times of India. Later he studied from the famous J.J. School of Art in Mumbai.

Why was Homi Vyarawala nicknamed Dalda 13?

Homi Vyarawala’s nickname Dalda 13 is as interesting as the story behind this name. Come, let us know why Homi Vyarawala’s nickname is Dalda 13?

Homi Vyarawalla bought a car in November, 1955. This car was Fiat 1100-103 Nuova Millicento, which he bought in Mumbai. After taking delivery of the car in Mumbai, Homi sent it to Delhi by train at an additional cost of Rs 200. This vehicle was registered in Delhi in the name of DLD. This DLD later changed into Dalda.

If we talk about number 13, then according to Homi Vyarawala, 13 is his lucky number. Actually, certain numbers are associated with some people. For them, that number becomes synonymous with their life. One such number was ‘13’ which became associated with Homi Vyarawala. There were two reasons for this. First, she was born in the year 13 (1913) and second, at the age of 13, she met her husband.

Thus, the woman driving a Fiat car named DLD, whose lucky number is 13, was named Dalda 13.


As a photojournalist, he started his work with ‘Bombay Chronicle’, where his first photograph was published. During this period, he used to get remuneration of Re 1 for each photograph. After this, Dalda 13 worked in ‘British Information Service’ Delhi. There he started taking pictures of the ‘Freedom Movement’, which became very popular. He published his work under the pseudonym ‘Dalda 13’.

During the Second World War, he started working in the Illustrated Weekly of India Magazine. In 1970 he retired from photography. There were two reasons for his retirement. Firstly, the death of her husband and secondly Homi became disillusioned with the changes taking place in the shadow painting profession in the 1970s.

Why did you retire from photography?

When Homi retired from photography, she was at the peak of her career. In the year 1982, she moved to Pilani, Rajasthan to join her son Farooq, where Farooq taught at Pilani’s Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS). His son died of cancer in 1989. Homi spent the last days of his life in solitude in a small house in Vadodara.

Homi Vyarwala later donated his collection of paintings to the Delhi-based Al-Qazi Foundation of Arts. Homi Vyarawala died on January 15, 2012.


In view of Homi’s special achievements, in 2011, the Government of India honored him with ‘Padma Vibhushan’, the country’s second highest civilian award.


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