Varanasi is just as important for Hindus as a Vatican for Catholics or Muslim Mecca. In Hindu cosmology, the city is characterized as «Center of Earth». According to legend, Varanasi was founded by the god Shiva about 5,000 years ago. The main religious activity here is associated with ritual stepped structures — Hhathas. Hindus consider them «Divine Space Dear». In addition to ritual ablution, in which more than a dozen thousand people participate daily, Hhata serve as a place of ritual funerals with subsequent cremation bodies. This ritual sacrifice is carried out every evening at Dasashwamedkh-Hhata, and for Maryanika-Hhata for many centuries does not swell fire for ritual cremation. For the sake of all this, indulgence of the country arrive in the city, and numerous tourists are surprised to be surprised for exciting and bright (in the literal sense of the word) ceremonies.
Photographers Airpano shared their impressions from traveling to Varanasi.
There are several cities in the world with a strange aura. For me, all of them for some reason are located in Asia. These are places, on the arrival in which the roof breaks, the world weight is changing, all Western habits and views cease to work. These places — like another planet where everything is unacceptable or wonderful, where it seems to be the same people, but we are like from different galaxies. It’s not good and not bad, it’s just a fact of my experience.
For the first time I experienced this feeling in Kathmandu, the second time I was covered in an Angkore, and the Indian Varanasi became the third place. In these places you want to go back. In Kathmandu, I have been five times, in ankkore — Three, Varanasi, while visited only twice, it means, still ahead.
Than enchanting this city, it is difficult to express in words. Everything is arranged here so that white man should become uncomfortable and scary. It is really «City of dead» — And not only because bonfires burn on the embankments (here 24 hours a day burned corpses, fresh from all of India). At the end of the gloomy painting along the river swim half-chased domestic domestic animals and people who, by certain reasons, can not be betrayed «Fire cleansing».
But it’s not the main thing. The main thing is that they come here to die. Stone steps, many temples and ritual cremation places — Hhata, stretching 5 km of the coastline, are becoming simply a place for death, and this expectation stretches by porous years and even for whole decades. Hindus believe that if a person died in Varanasi and was cremated on the shore of Ganges, the process of rebirth stops, the soul reaches bliss and will not return to the material world. The city is saturated with this energy of death and its expectations, but it does not carry the negative.
Vice versa — Waiting for happiness in the air. This is a living city. More than a million inhabitants, temples and hotels, narrow streets for which I am swaying to the river, crossing through the cow «Lepi» and donating from the mopedists. Here everything seems to know everything, but the conductor leads me with a luggage for an hour, and in the end we come not there. Smells of uncleanness, hashish and incense pursue me in the labyrinths of the streets. And all this in the middle of it remains a thousand miles behind when I go to the shore. Over the river I could not, not the smoke, not that fog. The space is permeated by the voices and prayers: someone commits a fiery cleansing ritual of Pouge, ascetics are meditating over the rush, and someone erases and cleans the teeth with water from Ganges. Cows are slowly walking along the stone steps, and boats scored by Hindus with important, incomprehensible goals, move up and downstream. In the evening, Hhata is illuminated by spotlights and ritual fires. Sounds loud music, someone dancing, the people on the steps ten times more than the day. Maybe they do not sleep at all? And I fall asleep under the sounds of sutars and piercing chants.
dawn. I go to the roof of the guest house. The drier Disk of the Sun is barely guess in the haze over the absolutely empty opposite bank of the river: not a single building, only sand. I look down on our shore — there is life. Vdal view — there is a desert, death. And only the thin strip of the Great River shares these spaces.
For me, India was still the most interesting country from all visited for the shooting career in the Airpano project. When you start telling friends about India, it is almost always asked about the smell. In general, in India, I would not say that everything is so terrible. There are quite decent places — For example, in Delhi. But Varanasi still knocks out against the rest of the country. On my amateur view, smell in Varanasi — It is probably the smell of all India in a square.
You are difficult to convey words, but I will try: imagine that in the old close town almost without sewage, all waste flows into the open ditch river. Cow and goats roam the streets. People on the shore also do not feel much shy to protect their need right where it grabs. And all this is a generously generously fenced by a sweet aroma of the bodies burned in crematoriums.
Europeans are categorically not recommended to swim in Ganges. I listened to this topic a lot of instructive stories about what can be picked up in local waters, therefore there were no special urges. Other was strange — pretty quickly, literally a few hours after arrival in the city, I stopped feeling the smell of feces flowing into the river. I do not know what worked out: Fresh wind from the opposite, unaked shore or just the brain went to the reboot and turned off the receptors — But those a few days that the Moiseenko and I removed Varanasi, the stench did not disturb absolutely.
There was only one unpleasant moment: a boatman who drove us along the river during filming, telling about his life and waking up the cat (this is a light narcotic plant that the Indians are traditionally chewing for a few hours), at some point he slipped overboard and, after hesporing hand of water from the river, rolled mouth. Literally a few minutes before that, I saw in the water the next ritual bundle with a corpse of some animal, so I was almost unloaded right away.
In addition to the ablutions in Gange, there is another very important aspect of the life of the city. These are the ritual burners of the dead in the crematoriums located on the banks of the river. The British after colonization tried to eradicate this custom, but they could not fully manage to do. Naturally, we could not but try to remove one of the acting crematoriums from the air.
I must say that you can watch the tourists for cremation, but it is not allowed to take photos. However, we were able to negotiate the Kremontia workers. True, our boatman was absolutely not delighted with this idea, and after a small fencing duel with Dima, we had to part with a boat. Air filming was already made from the shore.