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Varanasi, India

Published August 1st, 2012

One of the world's oldest inhabited cities, seen through my lens.

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Boats at Sunset

Varanasi, also known as Kashi or Benaras, is one of the oldest and most fascinating inhabited cities in the world. Varanasi vibrates with the hum of the ancient. It is considered a holy city by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. It is one of the seven holiest places in Hinduism and it’s this reverence that transforms the city.

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Ghaat at Sunrise

Hindus believe that death in Varanasi exempts a soul from the cycles of rebirth because the soul is freed into enlightenment. Death is an industry in Varanasi. Approximately 400-600 bodies are cremated every day on the ghaats. In this image taken at 4:30am, one of the ghaats is a flurry with activity as the earth turns at sunrise.

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Child on Boat

The ghaats also play home to other industries. Here, a boy sleeps on a boat before beginning a hard day’s work.

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Swimmer

The ghaats are on the banks of the Ganges river. The Ganges river is the holy river that runs through India. Millions believe that bathing in the Ganges purifies the soul. Ashes of millions of Hindus are spread along the Ganges. In this image, a man begins his morning by bathing in the river.

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Flower Seller

He was working along the ghaats as a Diya seller. I saw him at sunset and then again before sunrise the next morning. Poverty drives such rigorous work at a tender age. He had a seasoned look in his eyes. In this image, through his serious exterior you can see the tiny smirk on his lips. He giggled at the sound of the click.

  • July 2nd, 2012
  • NIKON D7000
  • 50mm / f/13 / 1/250 sec
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Diya

The young boy was selling the Diyas in this image. Hinduism is a religion heavily connected to the five elements. The Diya evokes one of the five elements - fire. In Varanasi, the Diya is lit with a wish and placed in the holy Ganges river.

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Boats at Sunrise

In Hinduism, sunrise and sunset are the ‘time of the gods’. It’s these transitions where the world is most alive as both diurnal and nocturnal creatures are stirring. At around 4:30am, the sky was electric blue and the world was glowing. The peace quieted the world enough to sense the excitement of a new dawn.

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Sadhu

A Sadhu is a holy man who has renounced all attachment to the material world. They live on donations and dedicated their lives to achieving enlightenment through meditation and contemplation. It’s unlikely this man was a Sadhu and more likely that he was a beggar posing as one.

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Cow

Cows are sacred in India. They roam the roads and gulleys freely. Indians do not eat beef and there is no beef in McDonalds in India This cow cozied up to a nearby doorstep as we walked around her.

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Hide and Seek

Are happiness and wealth mutually exclusive? I think not. Satiation, security and comforts keep unhappiness at bay but don’t bring true contentment. Children and innocence are the best examples of this.

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reviveramesh
Ramesh Ramakrishnan, Iyer  almost 2 years ago
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nice set - I am sure you have more - u should make a small book - I like your comments as well - but the rags in your photos all show different parts of India