Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and many have called it home for years.
Many faithful Hindus believe if one can make the journey before his heart stops beating, to die in the holiest city in India is to be set on the path to Nirvana. The body will be cremated in the eternal flames on Manikarnika ghat, ashes tossed into the almighty Ganges to float away from the struggles and sins in this life. Here, you are set free.
Life for many living here is tough but the promise of reincarnating into a better one is enticing. So, for those who spend their lives praying they will take the last breath in Varanasi, there’s nothing to do but wait. And while they wait, life takes over the day on the 80 odd ghats.
Few will descend to the ghat from those steep stairs to mourn the loss of a loved one while others will come to celebrate childbirth, some locals visit just to relax over a cup of chai.
Foreign tourists wait for a photo opportunity, a boatman would wait for a tourist to hitch a scenic boatride, fishermen patiently wait for the bait to work, a dhobi beats away the dirt out of a sheet, pilgrims chant prayers as they take a dip in the holy Ganges, young boys show camaraderie as they get into a diving contest, a priest lures passer byes to facilitate religious rituals while some are there because it’s home.
The Mighty Ganga binds these lives to her ghats and one day she will set them free. Such is the vibrant display of life along the ghats in Banaras