Mourning comes

December 2018 Varanasi Mamiya6 Velvia100 26

Morning comes on the Ganges mirroring burnished copper and glistening gold across its broad reaches at Varanasi. Birds swirl across the waters, practiced, ready for devotees making puja by throwing crumbs into the river for them. Others make their morning worship, by bathing in the holy stream, lighting a candle or meditating with the dawn in their niches.

December 2018 Varanasi Mamiya6 Velvia100 18

December 2018 Varanasi Mamiya6 Velvia100 20

On the river, boatmen make their way, mostly rowing tourists along the ghats passing temples, historic forts, and guest houses where pilgrims come to stay, and sometimes die before being cremated alongside the Ganges. Funeral pyres burn night and day at the Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghats filling the air with smoke. Large wood piles are stacked by the shore. Pallbearers and mourners carry the corpses of their loved ones wrapped in white cloth to the ghat, placing it on a bier ready for the flames in the belief that when the dead are cremated here, the soul of the departed finds salvation or moksha.

December 2018 Varanasi Mamiya6 Velvia100 7

December 2018 Varanasi Mamiya6 Velvia100 16

Nearby I notice a lone, pale skinned Caucasian women with dark braided orange hair, dressed in a black dress and matching cape, being rowed along the river. On reaching the Harishchandra Ghat she unbraided her hair, brushed her long locks so it flowed over her cape and clothes, and then directed the boatmen to row close to the shore and funeral pyre.

December 2018 Varanasi Mamiya6 Velvia100 15

One person’s salvation is perhaps another’s liberation, so the cremations on the ghat became the backdrop for the selfies she directed the oarsmen to take of her. I wondered whether she styled herself as a Beat poet, spiritualist, or witch. Would she be eternally memorialised by these images on the web? It was a scene macabre, and one could not but think of Lady Macbeth. On the shore, bereaved mourners and holy men saw her and started to shout at them to move on.  Nothing to see there but the profane and its death.

December 2018 Varanasi Mamiya6 Velvia100 23

Mourning comes to the Ganges…

December 2018 Varanasi Mamiya6 Velvia100 19

All photos taken on Velvia 100 with a Mamiya 6.

4 thoughts on “Mourning comes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s