When I told everyone that we were going to India, a dream for me for a very long time, everyone was taken back? They thought I was crazy for actually traveling to a place that is overpopulated and dirty.
Yet its one of the most incredible experiences of my life, I will hold onto those memories until I am an old dying woman! And thankfully I will have thousands of images to go back to and look at.
After jet setting all over Rajasthan.
Rajasthan is a northern Indian state bordering Pakistan. Its palaces and forts are reminders of the many kingdoms that historically vied for the region. In its capital, Jaipur (the “Pink City”), are the 18th-century City Palace and Hawa Mahal, a former cloister for royal women, fronted by a 5-story pink-sandstone screen. Amer Fort, atop a nearby hill, was built by a Rajput prince in the early 1600s. The history, the buildings, the colours, everything was simply beautiful.
Our last three nights was Varanasi.
Varanasi is a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the city draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters and perform funeral rites. Along the city’s winding streets are some 2,000 temples, including Kashi Vishwanath, the “Golden Temple,” dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
And of course I planned to bathe in the Ganges, it was on my bucket list. Like for some of you, bungee jumping is? But alas, it was far to cold and when we came across a bloated dead goat floating by, there was a little adrenaline, although I knew I had enough medical aid to airlift me where ever I needed.
My biggest concern was sharks. (lol) Yes, I was afraid that a great white shark was going to eat me. That’s all, no big deal. So I didn’t touch the Ganges. Even when it sprayed onto my face from the countless boat trips, I would use medical & alcoholic swabs to clean my skin, I wore a buffer in case it got into my mouth, but damn my fear of sharks got me. I blame it on that movie. JAWS!!!
Varanasi took my breath away in so many ways. We walked the streets at night, we were offered dope, hash, heroin and cocaine. Yet we felt safe. We walked around with an excellent guide who made the trip who took us to the best places and local hangouts. And took us to the best Indian sweet shop, while we were tasting the sweets, the funerals in the streets would pass you, dead bodies covered in beautiful material, singing and bells, literally every ten minutes, it became normal.
Then the constant burning of the bodies on the pyres along the Ganges as their families sat with their dead, mourning, celebrating, just being together I suddenly realised us Westerners are pretty uptight. We all need a lesson in just being. I took it in and understood it and felt such compassion and happiness in my deep deep heart that they could sit next to their loved one for 7 hours while they burnt to ash. And after the body is burnt they take their ashes, along with the alot of previous bodies ashes, like seriously there isn’t a ash checker or anything. Its just simple and just peaceful.
In Hinduism, the river Ganges is considered sacred and is personified as the goddess Gaṅgā. She is worshiped by Hindus who believe that bathing in the river causes the remission of sins and facilitates Moksha (liberation from the cycle of life and death), and that the water of the Ganges is considered very pure.
Out of respect, I never took many photographs of the burning pyres, but I took images of the faces in Varanasi. As you can understand, its hard taking pictures of people, as firstly I would of had to have been rich and so rightly so, they would ask for rupees for picture. But I learnt that would be posed and the arguing and the negotiations where just not worth it. So I had to try my best to capture as natural as I could.
I realised here, that it does not matter what you look like. You are the same as the person next to you. You are walking the same path, yes of course sometimes its easier for you, but for most its harder and life has not been easy. I learn to have empathy, accept that what I have is good. I learn to be grateful for who I am, where I come from and although my road was not a easy one, it was better. I learnt that giving, touching, hugging and being kind to all types of people will not kill you. You will not die. You will live and you will feel better for it. My faces of Varanasi. A place where my heart will always be.