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The magazine of the art-form of the photo-essay “A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
Sept 2014 back issue
Varanasi “Older than tradition, older than history, older than legend  and twice as old as three of them put together.” Mark Twain
by Sugato Mukherjee
One of the oldest living cities of the world Varanasi always had its pivotal role in the Hindu spiritual world as an auspicious place to die; since it offers the ultimate liberation from the cycle of life and death. A city so soaked in the ancient Hindu philosophy of moksha or salvation associated with death could indeed be a somber place but few places in India are as colorful and charismatic as Varanasi. None other, with the probable exception of Calcutta, is as photogenic. Varanasi to me is simply a celebration of the senses. Life starts at 4 a.m. here with the first batch of devotees making their way to the holy river of Ganga for a holy dip. At the break of dawn, there is already a flurry of activity at the ghats with the flower seller, the barber with his first client of the day and women offering their prayers to the mother river. As the day rolls on, the city revolves around the river and the labyrinthine lanes which abound with yoga ashrams and ancient houses. The best time to take a stroll through the intricate labyrinth of galis (alleyways) is from late morning to late afternoon when the sunlight filters into these chaotic lanes. The travelling crowd of Varanasi flocks to the Dasawamedh ghat in the evening for the spectacular Ganga Aarti, a special puja of the mother river.
 A young woman offering her prayers to the holy river of Ganga in the pre dawn hours
Life starts at 4 a.m on the roads leading to the river and this young flower seller can sell her merchandise even in those wee hours.
 A slow boat ride on the Ganga is lovely in the mellow morning light.
A solo recital of Indian classical music on the river bank.
A group of young boys learning Vedic chants on the river bank.
Inside the labyrinthine alleys.
Ancient Hindu ritual - feeding the Brahmins after the last rites are performed in nearby Manikarnika ghat.
Drying time.
A young Hindu monk on the steps of a ghat.
The spectacular Ganga aarti in the evening.
A priest in the midst of a holy ritual at dawn.
A barber gets busy with his first client of the day on a ghat at 4.30 a.m.
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