Varanasi is a strange and ancient place, and by any measure confronting. Over 500 bodies are cremated on the ghats (banks) of the Ganges in Varanasi every day. The smoke from the pyres fills the air day and night. The huge piles of wood and the smoke stained buildings have a medieval otherworldly feel. Varanasi is a place where for thousands of years human beings drawn by their beliefs, converge and then merge both physically and spiritually with the even more ancient and revered Ganges. Many Hindu people believe they will be spiritually purified if they immerse themselves in the Ganges or that they will be freed from the endless cycle of birth and death if they die in Varanasi. Hindus believe that the Ganges (Mother Ganga) is a God and many will make a pilgrimage at some point in their life.
It is a place where for some people the final battle between human hopes and beliefs collides with the bleak reality of sickness and death. A hazy pall from the cremations veils old crumbling palaces built by the long departed Ozymandis-like princes. What viewer could not feel the poignancy of the ageless struggle of living ideas against the forces of death. Whatever your own beliefs, any visitor will feel that there is something undeniably fundamental and significant occurring in Varanasi. It is as though the sheer number of believers have over millennia conjured into existence a living spirit that has shaped Varanasi. So although Varanasi is no holiday by the beach, it is a place like no other on earth and I highly recommend it for intrepid travelers and photographers.
In my images I have tried to capture the essence of my experience of Varanasi in all its mystery and complexity.
To see the rest of the Varanasi Gallery, click on this link Varanasi Gallery, alternatively watch the slide show below or click on the small box in the lower right corner to get a larger version.