Our April-May 2017 Varanasi Tour was an intense spiritual experience. And here are 10 pictures that show how productive it was!
1. Sunrise on the banks
A boat moored to the banks of the sacred Ganga, awaiting its turn for tranquil sailing on the waters turning gold in the morning sun. When Skipper Rajiv and the group of participants of the Varanasi Photo Tour set out to explore the city early on a morning, they found this priceless sight of tranquillity even as the bustling streets behind them remained as chaotic – a serene break from all the spectacular chaos around.
2. A Soil-Stirring Pose
A kushti pahalwan prepares himself for yet another day at the kushti akhada. Portraiture is a vital component of travel photography, and with many cultural happenings in Varanasi every single day, there was never a dearth of opportunity to make such explicitly story-telling, culture-depicting photographs. People were cordial and some great conversations ensued about the place from those who live there!
3. Ashen and Smashing
A naga sadhu’s piercing gaze captured brilliantly by the Photo Tour Skipper. With their ash-smeared bodies, dreadlocks (jaTa in Sanskrit) and an air of otherworldliness, the naga sadhus are among the major subjects of travel photography on the ghats and alleys of Banaras. These portraits can be powerful simply because of the daunting appearance of the sadhus!
4. A Splash of Fun
What’s a river that doesn’t allow children to play in her waters? A delightful image of a few happy lads jumping into the sacred waters of Ganga and bathe and swim. The splash of water makes it all the more dramatic in black-and-white. It’s quite a unique experience to see something as cheerful as this at one ghat and dead bodies being burnt on pyres at another.
5. Dip and Watch
Men taking a dip in the holy waters of the Ganga even as a few boys watch them from the steps leading to the water. It’s a strong belief that taking a dip in the Ganga River at Varanasi washes off all of one’s sins, and for ages, this has been one of the most important wishes of a pious Hindu.
6. Plunging out of Colour
A silhouette of young boys plunging into the waters of Ganga sings in black-and-white nuances. Rajiv’s choice for not making this a colour photograph brings a mysterious shade of oldness to the picture, just like that of the city Varanasi itself. The pleasure of making silhouettes, when subjects are against light, can be elevated when a joyous human activity becomes a photograph.
7. On the Edge of Twilight
A naga sadhu obliges to pose for a photograph, the ghat he is sitting on edging the Ganga River reflecting the blue of the twilight sky. With the dying light, Varanasi throbs with activities like Ganga aarti in the night. Skipper Rajiv managed to make this image at a time where the day and the night were at each other’s threshold, and the sadhu and the two girls becoming interesting subjects of this picture.
8. Stripes of Wisdom
What brilliant minimalism in hues to treat every pair of eyes that find this gem of a picture! This image was made on a sparsely populated ghat, and it brings back the fragrance and feel of ancient India when young boys and young adults, clad in comfortable dhotis, took lessons in the Vedas and Upanishads, spiritual scriptures that contain much wisdom.
9. Grandeur in Simplicity
Another point in time frozen, bringing back the timelessness of Varanasi in blacks and whites and greys. In this frame, Rajiv has caught a reading adult Brahmin and a young one whose gaze is fixed on the horizon, both oblivious to the ghat by Ganga which they are on. Capturing simplicity is an exotic option in a city that offers sights of grandeur as well. And that only needs an observer to slow down and give everything the attention it demands.
10. Lighting the Night
A boy performing the Ganga aarti with several lamps on a night in Varanasi. The burning flames used to worship in the darkness of the night bring a sense of daunting beauty to an onlooker. Nights in Varanasi bring a different world to voracious eyes that want to take in everything.