• October 5, 2015

Seeing Double in India’s Twin Town

A few months ago New Delhi-based photographer Jordi Pizarro came across a magazine story about the small town of Kodinhi in the southwestern state of Kerala, India. Home to about 2,000 families, Kodinhi is reported to have a whopping 250 pairs of twins (give or take a few). Pizarro says it’s a phenomenon that no one in the village has been able to explain.

(To put that number in perspective, according to the Telegraph, that’s more than six times the global average and one of the highest twinning rates in the world.)

Alphonsa and Teresa. 16-years-old. From Cochí, Kerala.
Alphonsa and Teresa, 16, from Cochí, Kerala

Wanting to see pictures of all these twins, Pizarro did what most people do—he searched online. Surprisingly, he found very few professional images, so he set off for Kodinhi straight away to make photos of his own.

That journey, made along with a friend and translator, took him first to the capital of Kerala, where he learned that there would be a mass for 400 sets of twins at a Christian church in the south of the district a few days later.

Akber and Anwer. 31-years-old. Calicut, Kerala.
Akber and Anwer, 31, from Calicut, Kerala

“My friend and I started to laugh,” says Pizarro. “After having lived in India for two years, you learn never to be sure about anything in this country, and you can’t make plans too far in advance, since sometimes things happen and sometimes they don’t.

“So we arrived very early at this church. I was totally nervous and anxious thinking about the twins—and whether or not this mass would be real.”

Nora and Nova. 8-years-old. From Pala, Kerala.
Nora and Nova, eight, from Pala, Kerala

But real it was. Prior to the mass, Pizarro found the director of the church and got full access to photograph the ceremony.

“After a breakfast of tea and cookies, we started to see sets of twins dressed exactly alike coming up the road,” says Pizarro. “I jumped out of the car and I started to speak with the people, asking them, ‘Why are you coming here? Where are you from?’”

Rolin and Ronin. 31-years-old. From Kottayam, Kerala.
Rolin and Ronin, 31, from Kottayam, Kerala

The lighting inside the church was dim, so Pizarro made portraits of many of the twins outside, in a more natural setting. The next day, he continued on to his original destination, Kodinhi.

After his positive experience in the church, Pizarro expected it would be easy to find twins to photograph in Kodinhi, but to his surprise, no twin would let him take their picture without permission from the director of the local “twin association.” And it turned out that that guy wanted thousands of dollars to grant permission. Citing his ethics as a photojournalist, Pizarro refused to pay.

Tommy and Tony. 14-years-old. From Kodinhi, Kerala.
Tommy and Tony, 14, from Kodinhi, Kerala

Frustrated and disheartened, Pizarro was smoking a cigarette outside when a well-dressed man approached him. He spoke a little English and asked Pizarro what he was doing in Kodinhi. Pizarro explained his project, and the man, a teacher at a local school, said he knew most families in town and offered to introduce him to twins. The only thing he wanted in exchange was the opportunity to practice his English.

“It was perfect,” says Pizarro. “We spent three days with the teacher going to visit different houses in the village, and the scene was very different—all the people received us well and were super happy to have a professional photographer taking portraits of them.”

Afna and Afra. 7-years-old. From Kodinhi, Kerala.
Afna and Afra, seven, from Kodinhi, Kerala

Continuing with the style he had started outside the church, Pizarro decided to use the tropical vegetation as his backdrop and to have the twins wear the same clothes.

Hiba and Fathima. 2-years-old. From Kodinhi, Kerala.
Hiba and Fathima, two, from Kodinhi, Kerala

To create the final images, he used a Photoshop filter that emulates the look of Kodachrome film and added borders from scanned vintage photos.

“What I like from this series is that looking at it gives a sensation of something magical,” says Pizarro. “The images feel familiar, like a family album.”

Jordi Pizarro is from Barcelona and is currently based in Delhi. View more of his work on his website and follow him on Instagram.

There are 40 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Joginder Singh
    January 24, 2016

    Dear Jordi,

    I could relate to every single word of your article as I experienced the same when I went to Kodinhi for my PhD research and faced exactly the same issue. I was collecting handwriting samples of twins, and the members of TAKA (Twins and Kins Association) demanded money for giving me the information about twins, like their names and addresses. I also chose not to give a single penny, instead roamed around the streets of Kodinhi to find out myself about location of twins. I discovered that the general populace doesn’t like this association either for their unethical practices. The people in general and school authorities were indeed very helpful.

  2. AriadneAufNaxos
    October 20, 2015

    The Yoruba of West Africa have the highest twinning rate in the world. Turns out it’s the yams. My family has lots of twins and growing up a lot of my friends were twins.

  3. Dogin Randa
    October 16, 2015

    very interesting….would love to work on such projects

  4. Ronald Altic
    October 15, 2015

    My sister had two sets of twin boys and one girl in between the boys; all before her third anniversary. I’m not sure if she ate any yams in those days

  5. Deepthi
    October 15, 2015

    Amazing.. Hailing from Kerala I did not know about this..
    Someone was talking about Yam being a part of the diet. To answer your question, yes in Kerala we do use a lot of Elephant foot Yam in our dishes.

  6. Keith Tricker
    October 14, 2015

    I wish my double exposures were that good! A great piece of work and charming with it.

  7. Rajkumar Oberoi
    October 14, 2015

    It is research oriented phenomena, may interest many in medical world also. My submission is contribution to this mass conceiving may be related to climatic environment & staple diet of parents.

  8. Jane Elizabeth Wright
    October 13, 2015

    We have a holiday home in rural Guanacaste, on the Nicoya Peninsular, Costa Rica. Our village has a population of approximately 160, with 2 sets of twins, one whose ages are 16, and one set who are in their 50’s or 60’s. But what is even more interesting is how much the people of Costa Rica resemble those from the East, with of course the Spanish influence!

  9. Rodolfo Martinez
    October 12, 2015

    Is very interseting notice

  10. Astromurthy
    October 12, 2015

    There are several projects to venture in India. People respond to a foreigner rather than a local .

  11. David Mathi Raj Samuel
    October 12, 2015

    Good Work!

  12. Gia
    October 12, 2015

    Such beautiful twins. I wonder if they were all identical or if there were fraternals as well. Odds alone would indicate that there would be at least one set as well as triplets or quads. As for the cause it may be that it is in the gene pool at this point. However, as goofy as this sounds, an article I read a few years back linked higher than average twin births with a diet high in yams (not American yams, tropical yams) — which have a something that my ancient brain refuses to recall. Scientists had a group in the Caribbean and another in Africa that had more than the usual number of multiple births. Their hope was to find a natural agent to help with fertility. This part of India seems to be tropical and it would be interesting to know if yams were a part of their diet as well.

  13. shruti
    October 12, 2015

    There must be some specific element in environment or their food which is leading to toh the split in the embryo which results in identical twins.
    BTW, the pictures are really good

  14. Greg
    October 12, 2015

    It’s interesting that this phenomenon cuts across religious bounds. So it isn’t all happening in one community. (And why are Afra and Afna so different in size. It isn’t just a case of one standing on the palm tree roots.)

  15. Mumun
    October 12, 2015

    How did it feel to be surrounded by so many twins?

  16. Olitha Gunaratna
    October 11, 2015

    My elder daughter has a pair of twin boys. Looking back into her (mine or her mother’s) or her husband’s, there is no trace of twins. I am of view that more than genetic, the men and women of that city, and the state of Kerala must be more fertile than humans elsewhere on Earth. This maybe due to their lifestyle, diet and habits, or something else worth investigating from a scientific point of view.

  17. Berta
    October 11, 2015

    Es un milagro de la naturaleza que no cansa de admirar,seres tan identicos.Gracias mil

  18. Rudy Kintanar
    October 11, 2015

    The genetic angle seems to me as the most obvious explanation. How many of the parents are Blood Relative?

  19. Dona McAdam
    October 11, 2015

    I love these photos!! A strange genetics caused by (what) the location? It would be interesting to follow up in the future–does it continue?

  20. Lieve L
    October 11, 2015

    thank you Jordi for your persistence, your pictures and the twin brothers and sisters are beautiful; only same gender twins?

  21. Rhonda FLOYD
    October 11, 2015

    All identical twin! There is a high mortality rate with identicals and I wonder how many infants were lost in utero or in delivery. Surely modern obstetrics could learn from them if their rates of twin death is less than here in the US.

  22. Ken DeVane
    October 11, 2015

    Beautiful photos of beautiful people. Pleasing composition, color and postures/poses and looks of the twins. Inspiring.

  23. Leo Cavallini
    October 11, 2015

    But the most pretty photo of the series, in my opinion, is cropped. You guys should repeat it even it’s the main photo of the reportage. It’s shown fullsize in my email newsletter 😉
    Great photos!

  24. Philip O.
    October 11, 2015

    Fantastic and magical images. Well done and thank you for sharing. I wonder what a close-up images of the faces would look like. I would like the challenge of telling the twins apart. What features will differentiate them? Can this be captured?

  25. Carl King
    October 11, 2015

    Afna and Afra, seven, from Kodinhi, Kerala The same age?

  26. Quyen
    October 11, 2015

    As a twin parents, we are greatful of it and blessed. Thanks for sharing amazing pictures.

  27. Carol Vanselow
    October 11, 2015

    I’m a twin too. And we thought it was surprizing that there were 5 sets of twins in our neighborhood (4 block radius)

  28. Chris
    October 11, 2015

    Have you noticed the significant size difference between the twins? Are they genetically identical?

  29. Max Alexander
    October 11, 2015

    I have spent considerable time in India and Kerala. Things are done differently in India, don’t be offended or try to change them, just go with the flow … it’s a 5,000 year old culture and it is wonderful just how it is and the people are remarkably resilient.

  30. Peg G.
    October 11, 2015

    Sounds like random genetic drift.

  31. Jean Petree
    October 11, 2015

    It’s interesting to me that in many cases, one twin is noticeably smaller than the other.

  32. Jean-Pierre
    October 11, 2015

    Très intéressant et intéressant, bravo le professeur … et le (les) photographes…

  33. Muralidharan
    October 11, 2015


  34. Cat Renar
    October 11, 2015

    Having always been intrigued with twins, I too am curious about the stats for this village, and as an amateur photographer, I admire your gumption and creative eye in these beautiful portraits… Kudos! Wish I had thought of it 😉

  35. Frank K
    October 11, 2015

    A nice story. The high twinning rate is interesting. I wonder why that is happening. Thank you for your story.

  36. Minakshi bajpai
    October 11, 2015

    Marrying within families ( usually with first cousin) could be one reason for sharing the same gene.

  37. stanley
    October 11, 2015

    This is really amazing.

  38. Jack Lavelle
    October 7, 2015

    as the father of twin boys (men), I must admit I’m a bit blown away by the sheer numbers of twins in this town. I’d love to hear the biological theories on why this occurs here. The photos are breathtakingly beautiful and if I were the parent of one of the sets, I’d be forever grateful.

  39. Meghan
    October 6, 2015

    As a twin, I am a bit biased, BUT as a photographer, I appreciate the talent and the artistry of this series! Thank you so much for sharing these 🙂

  40. Silas S
    October 5, 2015

    A state in India with high literacy rates and a popular tourist destination. Sad to hear about Jordi’s difficulties in the region. Yet, he has a story today and a travel to remember!

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