Monday, October 24, 2005

The Holy Ganga (Benares - Formally Veranasi)

Blue sky dawning . . . or maybe it's gray . . . and maybe what it's doing is yawning, not dawning. Well, either way . . . it's a beautiful picture, and, as stunning as I find it here, it captures very little of the true magnificence that we experienced while actually viewing it.
(Above) Beginning the day . . .
Boat/Gandula kid. Perhaps it was simply the atmosphere/enviornment, but I just thought every kid there and every person there was beautiful, and deserved a picture. I admit this kid might not seem like the most photogenic being on the planet . . . but I'm glad we took this picture. I think it fit very well.

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Petal Offering


Floating sacred flower petals upon the Ganga with a small candle and, at times, some incense, is a traditional ceremony.

(Above) Beautiful kid. Looks very pure, innocent, inviting, and unpresupposing.
lonely flower . . .

Krishna and Lakshimi. The divine couple. That's Krishna on the left. Lakshimi on the right.

The Burning GhatThis was the main area in Benares where Hindu worshippers are cremated. It was strictly prohibited to take pictures, so all of this was done in a very, very secretive manner. While we did not want to disrespect any of the customs, we did, nontheless, want to capture some of the moments. And I'm glad we did.
Above is a picture of a holy person. They (and various other types of persons - infants, for example) are not cremated at the ghat. They are, instead, wrapped in ceramonial garb and sent off floating down the river. And no, for those of you wondering, the cow has nothing to do with the ritual. It was just there.
Okay . . . Now, ladies and gentlemen. Look at this picture (above) closely. Very, very closely. Notice anything? Anything at all? Sure? You sure? Okay. Why don't you click on the photo itself and get a closer look. Pay particular attention to the pile of burning wood. Let me know if you find anything in it that looks - *ehem* - familiar.

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(Above) Ted had to take his turn rowing the boat . . . I thought he was doing a horrible job, and I quitely huffed and puffed, and rolled my eyes through his entire jaunt. I couldn't wait to get my own turn to "show him how it's done". I silently waited, and when the boat master casually motioned me to make an attempt, I confidently strided up to the front of the boat . . . and no sooner had I started rowing, than I was veering off in unintended directions and bumping into other villagers' boats, etc. They promptly took me off my turn in haste, and my tour of duty ended with an ignomonious "dishonorable discharge". Significantly humbled, I was glad I hadn't voiced any of my initial (and arrogant) discontent.
Two voyagers . . .

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Benares VillagersNow this gentleman here (above) I thought was a true character. I dare say his appearance was quite stunning in its own right; not someone you can easilly forget (much as some may try). Here he is pictured with the Ganga's "Burning Ghat" in the background.

Portrait . . .
Feel free to click directly on the picture (above) for a much closer look at the intricacies of this man's face. I'm not sure whether it's grotesque or divine. Perhaps both . . .
(Above) He looked so painfully intense, and focused and concentrated to me. The image grabbed me at once.
I think she is nothing short of beautiful - the way she was captured here. The dynamic flow/movement of her hair and her being caught in mid turn is very poignant.This is the custom of many a worshiper at the Ganga: Bathe and drink freely of the holy waters. We western minds have little regard for the purity which apparently belies it's outword appearance. I saw various and sundry things, both organic and inorganic, floating listlessly by on the slow current of the river - the majority of which being fit more for the bottom of an industrial garbage can than a human stomach - and yet not only was this photo very indicative of the general activity of the people around us, but we had more than one story retold to us about the healing and cleansing properties of the river. For all the less than pallatable things I saw in the waters, I do not disbelieve the strories in the least.
There was a general consensus that the Ganga is a Hindu-significant river; i.e. Musslemans generally do NOT go (read "practically never"). This picture was, therefore, quite significant, for, along with the fact that this gentleman was of definite stalwart appearance in and of itself (regardless of where he was standing), his being a Muslim lends even more weight as to where he was while the photo itself was being taken.

Ganga Praying
I love this photo. It is certainly one of my favorite photos of the trip. I wasn't even aware that it was being taken - all the better because I believe I was, ultimately, the peripheral - and not the main - subject. The intensity of the background subject is very tangible. It speaks volumes. I think there's something to be said for the foreground subject's level of focus and intensity as well, however.
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Bicycle Riksha(Above) Very nice picture Ted took. Don't know exactly what it's saying, but whatever it is . . . well . . . it seems to be saying it well and effectively - if not at least astheatically - enough.

In The Rainy Market Square . . .On our way back to the hotel from a long walk through town, we got caught by a rather heavy flash flood. We had to step under cover so as not to get the cameras rain-damaged, and, while there, I saw a good photo op.
Very cool. Very abstract looking. Doesn't even look real. Looks (again) like it was Photoshopped.

..................................Another Swastik; this time placed in a Hindu shrine right underneath the sacred, Hindu "Om" symbol. Our amazement and facination with how accepted and, indeed, revered this ancient symbol was never quite abated.

Chiti Chiti Bang Bang!(Above) A Mongoose! I tell you, India was full of all sorts of interesting animals just running around everywhere! (not the least of which were some of the people we saw). This isn't the best image in the world, but I felt I just really wanted to take a picture - since - sheesh! - it was a mongoose! Just running around! Man . . . You don't see that in the states . . .(Above) Ted atop one of various rooftop restaurants we ate at overlooking the Ganga.

Rambunctious Kid
Here I am (above) with one of the village children that decided to follow us around and haggle for some rupees. He (and his compatriot - there were two of them) wasn't really very annoying at all. He turned out to be quite affable and endearing enough.

Meditators
(Above) On one of the many (and I do mean many) ocassions when a town we went to in India had a city-wide power outage and the entire area was left without electricity, we found ourselves in the dark with nothing more than an old lantern that the hotel management placed out in the hallway to illuminate things. I thought it looked very interesting, and decided to take a few pictures of it.

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The Monk Is Dead(Above) Took a few pictures of Ted one evening in his room at Hotel Om. Thought they were pretty cool and pensive. They spoke to me.Every morning while in Banares, we would get up just before the sun would break in order to make it out to the holy river Ganga (just outside this window) and catch the sunrise while floating on these gandula-type boats. I would have to get up at least an hour to two beforehand, however (4AM thereabouts), in order to catch what had since gone from morning 4 1/2, to a morning 6 1/2 mile runs through the village and surrounding city/country side.

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Looking OLD(Above) My friend Edward. Remember at the beginning of this journey I told you those boyish looks wouldn't last for long? Well, here's proof.

Swimming In The GangaThis guy apparently didn't mind the dead calf I saw floating in the Ganga just a day before . . . No really . . . That was actually kind of irreverent - and I shouldn't have said that. It is indeed an immensely, and incredibly holy place. You can just feel it. And the majority of the people there (as you've already seen via some of the other photos) immerse themselves in this holiest of holy rivers with absolute (and justifiable) impunity. However, I did see my share of things IN the river . . . that made the initial conviction I had (prior to visiting India) of jumping in and swimming around . . . well . . . quell a bit.

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(Above) Some posts don't need captions. They speak for themselves.
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Professor Dhoti
(Above) We met this gentleman who tisked and laughed at my dhoti-tying methods.

101He helped me figure out how to tie a proper dhoti, since I was a lot more unaware than I anticipated.

Proper Dhoti . . .Okay fine. Proper dhoti . . . But I tell you what: One, my underwear was showing - which, although I wasn't quite aware of it THEN, I'm looking at it now and am WAY retrospectively embarassed, and two this "proper dhoti" tying that this gentleman did was really very, very - *ehem* - restricting, shall we say. It didn't really leave much room to breath (or walk!). Very nice gentleman all the same though. Neither Ted nor I regret having met and spent time with him. And I've since figured out a much more comfortable (and still traditional) way to tie my dhoti!

PeekabooThis was right outside of the window of the room I stayed at in Hotel Om (Benares). Cute kid - I mean monkey . . . What's the difference right? I wonder . . .

Meditating SadhuSaw this kid (above) climbed up on top of this ladder. Reminds me of me when I was his age . . . Had to take a picture of him.Ahhh . . . Another beautiful sunrise . . .And the guys that took a picture of it . . .

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