Varanasi: The One Sided City

Varanasi is built on the banks of The Ganges, the holiest of rivers. It is entirely built on the west bank, there is nothing on the opposite bank. The city was founded by the god Shiva and is the spiritual heart of India. The city faces the sun as it rises over the Ganges, the new day is born over the holy river. why build the city anywhere else?

The west bank and the city.

The east bank.

More Pehlwani wrestlers: Varanasi

Pehlwani (or Kushti) wrestling makes a fascinating subject if you are lucky enough to visit a training school. These guys made me so welcome and sitting with them on the banks of The Ganges sharing breakfast is one of those reasons I travel.

Funeral gats at Varanasi.

When a Hindu dies their body is cremated, preferably within twenty four hours and if possible by the Ganges where their remains can be scattered in the holiest of rivers. Varanasi is the holiest city of them all. Several of the stepped gats at Varanassi are only for funeral pyres and they burn all day and night.

The funeral gats at times have a rather dystopian feel, at least to Westerners like me.

Most Hindus are cremated as it is believed that this will help their soul to escape quickly from the body. The exact details of the funeral ceremonies, which form the last of the samskaras (antyeshti samskara, final reincarnation), vary according to tradition and place.

Mural by the main funeral gat at Varanassi.

Mural by the main funeral gat at Varanassi.

Portrait of a sadhu: Varanasi

One of my favourites of my last trip to the Hindu holy city. The light wasn't great (he is squinting a bit as he is facing the rising sun) but he is a great subject.

It's an example for those interested in such things as how a photo can be made that much better with a plain background. I wasn't carrying anything with me but he was sat on the steps of a gat facing the Ganges and his dhoti was lying beside him so I hung it over a rail behind him.