VARANASI, UTTARPRADESH, INDIA.
Penned and Photographed: Aman Chotani
Varanasi was the most photographic locations I have visited until now. For people it can be the city of temples, the city of lights or the oldest living city on earth but for me it was a step further. It was a journey that has given me some of the best pictures, each depicting a story in itself; stories of forgiveness, sagas of love, narratives of dedication and tales of inspiration.
“We usually live life for attaining happiness and freedom. Which are virtues that are attained mostly after life but being in Varanasi let me to gain these variables while I was living”.
Words, phrases are less to describe the serenity of the city; the peace you find within yourself when you are in the religious capital of India is exceptional. The sound of the river, the fresh air mixed with the fragrance of the scented incense sticks, the ringing of the bells, the chanting of prayers touches your soul and leads you to a contrasting world. A world that is untouched by the unruly mannerisms of the city life coupled with an atmosphere that is calm and peaceful.
Varanasi is a city situated on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It is regarded as a holy city by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. It is one of the oldest in India. The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganges bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and the Assi, with the Ganges being to its south.
While walking the not so clean streets of the city, I met some of the most memorable people I will never encounter in my life again. Speaking to them about their lives, their cultures, their devotion was enchanting and educating. And the thrill on their faces with the idea of them being photographed was wonderful.
“The icing on the cake has to be the Ganga Aarti performed at the Meer Ghat. It is a sight which is remarkably divine and ethereal.”
They told me about the various Ghats the city boasts about. Varanasi has nearly 100 Ghats. Many of the Ghats were built when the city was under Maratha control. Most of the Ghats are bathing Ghats, while others are used as cremation sites or for washing purposes popularly known as “Dhobi Ghats”.
The city has many lives revolving around it; the lives of 1000’s of boatmen, who take Rs. 50 to take you around the river, the lives of the sadhu’s who preach their religion, the lives of the small children who aim to be like their role models and the lives of the many people who come each day in the city to attain purity of soul and pay tribute to their god.
Each day I had many fascinating experiences and places to visit which made my journey more exciting and perfect. There are some times when you don’t want your journey to end, and this was one of those rare experiences of my life.
I don’t know if I am an ardent follower of god really, but being in the city I certainly felt the feeling of a supreme power. It made me realize that in today’s fast moving world, we need to stop and get the peace that we are looking for. And for me the peace was here, amongst the crowd of 100’s of people, each of us have a purpose of being in the city. A mere photographic assignment became an experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.
The glances in the cultures and the rituals of the city have not only broadened my knowledge but have given me a scope of seeing the city in a different light. The compositions, the symmetrical lines, the colours, the portraits, the landscapes, the ghastly waters and the unique adjustments of the place were amazing. For exploring the beauty and the serenity of Varanasi even a lifetime is less.
As a photographer I visit many beautiful places, many interesting sights but the amount of scope this place has in terms of photography, I am yet to find something similar.
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Aman Chotani is a full time professional photographer in Noida, India and founder of the Gorillas Travel Photography Club.