A Bend in the Road - Images of India

March 08, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

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A trip to India was planned following my visit to China (Lenswork No #106 & B&W Magazine Portfolio Feature April 2104). It would enable me to finish documenting unique aspects of life of earth’s two largest and oldest civilizations.

My work on India covers day to day experiences in a number of Indian cities, most notably Old Delhi, and Varanasi. Old Delhi neatly sums up the image of teeming masses living harmoniously in India’s second largest city (pop. 16m+), whilst Varanasi reflects deeply Hindu custom, as one of the oldest cities in the World, and the holiest place for Indian Hindus.

Most of the images were taken over a period of 3-4 days, and most were taken within a couple of hours of each other as I walked the streets of Indian cities and the ghats (steps) of Varanasi, and observed the day to day and sometimes profound events unfolding before me.

What I discovered in Old Delhi in particular, was a place like no other I have visited, in terms of colour, energy and diversity. Delhi has been continuously occupied since the 6th century BC and the battles, scars and memories of it history are etched in bloodlines and buildings, whilst the ways of its people as they move through their day, have in many ways, probably not changed materially in centuries, despite the ubiquitousness of mobile phones and internet access amongst the unending processions of cows, camels, colourful saris, tuk tuks, and manual labourers of all persuasions.

Whilst Delhi pulses with life, Varanasi is where Hindus prefer to die. Where the city meets the sacred Ganges River, is a line of ghats (steps) along which you can walk.

 Most of the ghats provide access to the river for bathing and for puja ceremonies, while a few are used exclusively for cremation.

Holy men line the ghats and give blessings, and life’s daily body and spiritual cleansing rituals are practised all day and night. Most of the Varansi images were taken in the vicinity of the famous Dashashwamedh and Manikarnika Ghats.

At Dashashwamedh Ghat a group of priests daily perform at the "Agni Pooja" (Worship to Fire) wherein a dedication is made to Lord Shiva, River Ganges, Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe.

Manikarnika Ghat is the main cremation Ghat of Varanasi and is one of the oldest and most sacred sites along the river. According to the Hindu mythology, being burned here provides an instant gateway to liberation from the cycle of births and rebirths.

Lying at the center of the five tirthas, Manikarnika Ghat symbolizes both creation and destruction. At Manikarnika Ghat, the mortal remains are consigned to flames with the prayers that the souls rest in eternal peace.
 


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