Tales of The Ganges Varanasi in Monochrome …

Offerings to Gangga the river goddess along the misty ghats of Varanasi at dawn

Nothing is more sacred in India than the Ganges and when they say that you have not seen India if you haven’t been to Benares (Varanasi) I decided to come to this revered place. Worshiped by the Hindus the Ganges finds its source in the Himalayas and is personified as a beautiful goddess Gangga who according to legend was born from the kamandalu (water vessel) of Brahma. The worship of the goddess is performed through daily offerings which begins at dawn. Just before sunrise you can see many candlelit floating along the river and boats ready to take you for a journey through the mist of the mystical goddess. Most interesting are the ghats where you can walk along the banks lined with temples and palaces many are now inhabited by locals. Next to where I stayed is a beautiful royal house with an observatory built by Jai Singh Maharaja of Jaipur a passionate of astronomy today home to many monkeys … these other permanent inhabitants seen all over the sacred city are also known to be rather mischievous and noisy. The reason why most houses in Varanasi have metal bars across their windows to prevent them from entering. It’s still dawn I walked towards the ghats, there were hardly anyone just those who were interested to see the the candlelit ceremony. The early morning mist engulfing the river and the cool breeze certainly have put me in a mystical mood … children carrying baskets trying to sell their home made candles placed on woven leaf plates. The misty river became a floating world of spectacular candlelit. If this is the city of the goddess and so is for the dead. Many Indians hope to be cremated in this city as it is believed that the sacred waters of the Ganges purify the body and soul and that to be cremated in this holy site one can obtain moksha (attainment of liberation) and be liberated from samsara (the cycles of birth, death and rebirth) There are two burning ghats the Manikarnika and Harischandra one of the city’s main attraction to curious visitor like me. The fire burns continuously and cremations can go on all day and night with daily incoming of corpses brought by stretchers while chanting the ram ram mantra through the streets. The bodies wrapped in white silver and gold shroud covered with flowers are immersed in the Ganges then placed on the pyres. For those who cannot be cremated for lack of money the body is simply thrown into the river…

Placing candlelit for offerings at dawn

The city is laden with shrines and after getting lost in this mystical world of gods and goddesses meandering through the streets lined with temples surrounded by symbolic sculptures of the lingga yoni …. I caught this image of a woman looking out from her balcony while a man stood before worshiped carved symbols …

Streets of Varanasi

It is also an enjoyable walk along the river banks where I feel as if I am thrown back in time … an impression I often get when travelling to certain places in India. Images that remind me of those pioneer photographers of 19th and early 20th centuries – like Samuel Bourne, Lala Deendayal, Felix Beato …A nostalgic walk into their worlds … All these images are part of my book Journeys Delhi to Varanasi and taken with my Canon film camera using Delta Ilford 400. Photos are for sale as silver print.

Along the river Ganges Varanasi

More images on the sacred city of Varanasi …

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31 replies »

    • Thank you … yes this is a nice one the little girl followed me around till I finally bought all her candles 🙂

  1. I am incredibly jealous. This is a place that I so want to visit. I have been pondering the importance of sacred places, even writing about it on one of my blogs the other day. Often people look at the negative aspects of the Ganges, not understanding the deeply religious importance which it holds. You have depicted its beauty wonderfully.

  2. I’m glad you like “In search of unusual destinations”. I love you blog and could not resist examining the monochrome shots in general and those of Varanasi (one of my favourite places on the planet) in particular. I will be back. All good wishes, Phil.

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