Varanasi, India - October 24th
Images from October 24th
I left my room today at 4:30 a.m. or so, to get to the ghats before the sunrises. Walking through the streets in the dark I was amazed at the number of people heading to the Ganges to begin their day by ritually bathing in the river. I stayed for several hours. I had heard about the burning ghats, where bodies are cremated, but was under the misconception that the the dead are placed on rafts, set on fire, and floated out onto the river. In fact the cremation is done on the ground. The burning ghats are dark as you will see.
It is believed that to die in Varanasi and be cremated along the banks of the holy Ganges, allows the soul to bypass the cycle of life and death over and over again, ascending directly to heaven.
Depending on how wealthy one is determines the kind of wood used when making the fire. Sandalwood being the most precious. Few can afford it. The sandalwood it is believed gives the deceased a sweeter send off on his way to eternal salvation.
To die in Varanasi is therefore something wished for by all.
The bodies are wrapped in cloth, different colors for men and women, and carried through the streets (picture below) by grieving relatives, to the ghat to be cremated.
There is also a photo below of a man 'waiting to die'. They wear the bright saffron garments and are painted in a particular as seen in the photo. I have seen several while here.
I could spend weeks shooting at the ghats where most people are happy to have me take their photo. It's one of the most stunning places I've been to.