Photographer's Note

The great river banks at Benaras (Varanasi), built high with eighteenth and nineteenth-century pavilions and palaces, temples and terraces, are lined with an endless chain of stone steps - the ghats - progressing along the whole of the waterfront, altering in appearance with the dramatic seasonal fluctuations of the river level. Each of the hundred ghats, big and small, is marked by a lingam, and occupies its own special place in the religious geography of the city. Some have crumbled over the years; others continue to thrive, with early-morning bathers, brahmin priests offering puja, and people practicing meditation and yoga. Hindus regard the Ganga as amrita, the elixir of life, which brings purity to the living and salvation to the dead; skeptical outsiders tend to focus on all-persuasive and extreme lack of hygiene. Ashes to the dead, emissions from open drains and the leftovers from religious rites float by the devout as they go about their bathing and ceremonial cleansing.

This picture is taken at the Munshi Ghat which is a short ghat located north of Dashaswamedh Ghat (one of the most important and busiest ghats in Benaras) along the Ganges. Its proximity to Dashaswamedh Ghat means that the Munshi Ghat is choked full of boats. By the way, the word "munshi" means "accountant" in Hindi. The ghats are always full of life. Pilgrims wading in the Ganges; vendors selling flower garlands and other objects used in worship; priests giving blessings or chanting scriptures under large umbrellas—a variety of people can be found at the ghats, no matter what time of day. Everywhere, street life and religious ritual intersect.

Early in the morning...sunrise....the boats were out with tourists, while a man gets ready to start his day after having taken his holy bath.

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7851 W: 324 N: 16060] (56760)
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