Varanasi attracts people from around the world, some are coming here so that there soul can rest in peace others are looking for soul food in the narrow lanes that serve the best in Indian Street Food. Some are pilgrims others are tourists and some claim to be travelers, while even others you will find in ochre robes that have no fixed agenda except for never to stay in the same place, just like the Ganga that continuously flows, never ever stopping.
No matter what your purpose of visiting Banaras is one thing is for certain you will be surrounded by all kind of people on the ghats of Benaras. From desi babas to firangi babes and everything in between you will be able to see and photograph from close range. I have been visiting Banaras for a few years now and each visit only increases the longing to come again.
From early morning to late in the night something is always happening on the Ghats. From the early morning rituals by priests and pilgrims that date back to the time immemorial are still seen everyday on these very ghats. The players may have changed but the play continues with the same story line.
Every time when I return to Varanasi one of my me time is just to sit on one of the ghats and see what is happening around me and trust me a lot happens on these ghats. A boatman encourages you to take an early morning boat ride in to see the sunrise, while a walking talking “ Chai Kee Dukan” offers you Ginger tea with a locally made biscuit. A panda invites you to connect with your past and inform you a few things about the future.
A newly born child undergoes his first tonsure as a homage to “ Ganga Maiya” right next to somebody giving up his hair for ancestors lost long ago but never formally done “ Pind Daan” , if you are not a Hindu you will struggle to understand the concept, but it is kind of a final goodbye to ancestors so that they may rest in peace.
In the evening the Ghats take a totally different avatar, some of the prominent ghats like Dasaswamedh Ghat are decorated for the daily evening Aarti in Varanasi, is a visual spectacle that is meticulously choreographed with an element of Incredible India with priests offering worship to Ganga using various elements like fire, water, flowers, rice grains etc.
Every moment in Varanasi is a photographer’s dream come true, you can capture not only the colors of India but also the faces of India on these very ghats. So in this particular photo feature, I am giving you various Faces of Varanasi that I have captured over the years on the ghats of Benaras. From wandering friars to firangs you will find them all in this series. Some of the pictures were taken with permission from the subjects while the others are candid moments that were captured in Benaras.
One may ask the question as to what is the true face of Benaras is it the locals who live in the holiest city in the world or is it the pilgrims who come in search of Nirvana or is it the priests and sadhus who use the Ghats for making a living ? Then we have the starry eyed foreigners who are trying to make a sense of all the chaos around them and wonder how can Indians be so cool about all this happening around them. But my take is that just like the Ganga does not judges anybody and welcomes each and every one of us to take a dip in her waters, we have no business to wonder what is the true Face of Varanasi for each of the millions of people who live and visit Varanasi are the faces of Varanasi and each one of us whether local or visitor make up the faces of Varanasi, this has been true yesterday, and this is true today and this will be true in the future also.
Jai Ganga Maiya, Jai Bhole Naath.
About the author and photographer:
Prasad NP is an avid traveler and after serving in global corporations as Corner Office Critter, he now consults startups and travels for his passion. His greymar and spalling skills are appaulding but he is a self certified raconteur par excellence. Prasad pretends to be a photographer and celebrates wanderlust as desi Traveler.