Varanasi, formerly known as Benaras in central India, is considered the Holy Grail of the country according to many. One of the oldest cities in the world, it sits by the river Ganges, a religiously precious location to all Indians.

Today, we look at it through the eyes of Joris Hermans.

For a certain Indian community, there is nothing more important or revered than passing away at Varanasi or being cremated by the banks of the river.

For a city as meaningful as this, filled with narrow by-lanes and alleys with age-old shops and restaurants, it is not uncommon to find it full of people celebrating the concept of passing.

The city presents itself as a place of Nirvana where foreign tourists and local Indians escape the reality of everyday life and do what brings them peace.

“The Ghats of Varanasi” is a photo experience created by the Belgian photographer Joris Hermans during his travel times in India while on his voyage to explore the world.

Ghats of Varanasi

The Ghats in Varanasi are the riverfront steps that lead to the banks of the River Ganges. Also known as the City of Ghats, Varanasi has close to 88 big and small ghats. Each of these have different meanings to different people.

While most of them are used by people across the country for various religious ceremonies called ‘Puja’, the locals use the water for bathing and washing.

Importantly, two noteworthy ghats are used exclusively as cremation sites, which have been beautifully captured by Hermans.

Man praying in the river Ganga
Man praying to the Ganges

The river is considered to be so pure that people wash themselves in the water to wash off their sins. Also after cremation, the ashes are sprinkled in the river as it’s said that the deceased will then attain ‘Moksha’ or ‘Nirvana‘.

From all over India people travel to Varanasi to die or to bring the dead. Life and death are not that far apart in India.

Joris Hermans

Cremation by the Ghats of Ganges
Cremation by the Ghats of Ganges
The Burning Ghat after Dark
The Burning Ghat after Dark

Joris wanted to experience the life by the Ghats that lead up to the river. From locals indulging in a card game to playing cricket or simply relaxing, he soaked in all that Varanasi had to offer.

When the light turned into a magical glow, Joris along with his partner, would loosen up the river and watch the sun go down.

Puja ceremony conducted by the Ghat
Puja ceremony conducted by the Ghat

Varanasi is also know for its beautiful evening ceremonies called ‘Aarti’, where sounds of the hymns and lights bring the Dashashwamedh Ghat alive. It is buzzing with thousands of devotees and tourists who come to witness this large spectacle.

Aarti ceremony about to begin at the Ghat in Varanasi
Aarti ceremony about to begin at the Ghat

From washing their sins to washing and grooming of buffaloes, the river and the city of Varanasi have a lot to offer to every person who visits. Travellers can walk for hours by the Ganges and simply watch life takeover. In the end, it changes anyone’s outlook and perspective of life.

It is a place that makes you think about life for a minute before you go on with it again. One of the most memorable things I did in India.

Joris Hermans

Joris Hermans is a Belgian documentary and world photographer, explorer, and founder of “The World Ahead of Us”. Since 2009, he has been combining his love for photography with freelancing and personal projects. In February of 2018, he decided to leave Belgium to travel and photograph the world indefinitely.

To see more of Joris’s work, visit his Cherrydeck profile or his travelogue website, here. For more understanding on turning passions into realities, read our interview with the Travel photographer Tanya Sharapova. ?

Posted by:Cherrydeck Editorial

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