Farewell ritual for deceased relatives about to be cremated. Varanasi, India. October 2010.
I barely remember taking this photo. Not because it was a long time ago, as it’s been less than two years, but because it feels as if it was taken in a different lifetime. The overwhelmingly spiritual athmosphere in Varanasi absorbed me completely and guided me into a state of awe and self reflection. It’s not an easy place to spend time in, and many leave after just two days. For me, it gradually became the most beautiful place in India, and if you are open to letting go of your values and norms for a moment and allow reality, life and death to happen before your eyes, this place will show you that there can be a perfect harmony between them.
It’s hard to face, but by talking to locals who see funeral processions every day, families who have travelled for days just to allow their relative to pass away and be cremated in what for them is the most holy of places, and children who play next to the place where the dead one’s are being burnt before finally ending up in the Ganges river, you are forced to let go of whatever fear you might feel towards death. It is nothing but a natural part of life here, and while it happens, groceries need to be brought home, homework has to be done, and reality has to continue.
There is an omnipresent smoke rising to the sky in Varanasi, and while it tells the stories of deceased relatives and friends, the sun rises just like in any other place. And when it is about to go down again, the rooftops all over the city fill up with children running their kites as high up as possible. Because that’s what matters most to them – joy, love and play.
Children on their way back from school. Varanasi, India. October 2010.
Young woman carrying groceries. Varanasi, India. October 2010.
Boy with a tilaka mark. Varanasi, India. October 2010.
Morning prayer by the Ganges. Varanasi, India. October 2010.
Children taking care of the family shop. Varanasi, India. October 2010.
Men smoking chillum. Varanasi, India. October 2010.
Man preparing tobacco holders. Varanasi, India. October 2010.
Kites and peace over the holy city. Varanasi, India. October 2010.