Saturday, 28 July 2007


Uttar Pradesh - Varanasi

Tagore's India, of the house-boats on the Ganges, and the buffalo's in the water with the kids.

Holy of holies, the city of Varanasi or Benares, as it was called in the old days, a reference mark in Hinduism. A labyrinth of streets and dire alleys where it doesn't matter to loose the way. Sacred cows and oxes rove around freely, and can be found at every corner, leading to strange encounters at the entrance of a temple.
The sadhu or holy man, practises his magical rituals on the shores of the river at dawn. The city at that time bathes in a very peculiar light, which makes it even more magical, and difficult to photograph by boat.

The temple that sinks slowly in the mud. Every mean is attempted to try to stop its disappearing, but it has been still not managed to stop the decay. Unfortunately, it is probably condamned to disappear.

The great mosque of Varanasi. A Muslim community also live in great number in the city, which gives a proper charisma to the place and its mixture of religions.

The ghats, the stairways that lead to the Ganges.

Varanasi is also a poverty and a dirtiness with no comparison, hundreds of lepers, of single-legged, of mutilated and injured and ill people, an army of beggars in the shadow of holiness.
Sometimes, I see them by thousands, in visions, in nightmares, the hands or the rests of their limbs eaten, by leprosy, coming in my direction. The only way out is to run...

There's a local Indian joke which says to be careful with dead corpses when you swim in the Ganges. Against one of the ghats, forgotten in a corner, was a corpse with no life in it,floating in the river. Swollen and covered with red bruises, it looked like a balloon full of water that did not sink. A few ladies of a certain age were looking at the scene, frightened by such discovery.

They say it is not convenient or even not allowed to photograph funerals, which are like everybody knows, cremations done in open air. After walking long the ghats for a while, I came to one of those places where corpses are burnt. A fellow, I suppose one employee in charge of the cremations, took me inside the site, and invited me to take a few shots at the scenes. Being a bit odd at the moment, I always funtion in a bit contrary way to what people may expect, I've declined the offer, and when I noticed, I had my feet in the ashes... The smell that was floating in the air, was a bit acid, a bit bitter... I've also not photographed the floating dead body.

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