The Ganges River takes a 190 degree turn in Varanasi and starts to flow towards its source in the Himalayas. It is the holiest Hindu city in the world, older than Jerusalem, Zion, and Ancient Rome.
Hindus believe that if they die here, they are able to free themselves from the endless cycle of rebirth and achieve salvation. Religion declares that the city was founded by the God Shiva, who is both the one and only god, but at the same time hundreds of thousands of gods. Shiva represents complete opposite ideas, which is totally cool in of itself. Archeologists believe that the city has been around since the 10th or 11th century BC so it is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.
As a fellow artist-in-residence at Kriti said this morning, “it’s how I’d imagine it would be like if I were to visit modern day ancient Rome.” There are thousands of temples, giant-stepped stone ghats with magnificent castle-like buildings.
You can see how high the river gets during the monsoon season. The opposite bank of the Ganga is completely undeveloped because it represents the ‘other-side’ where you pass into after death. It has huge sand flats that represent a much wider flow of the river. Walking along the bank on the Varanasi side, one can look up and see plastic bags, debris, and a water stain 20ft above.
Down by the river, you see men and women plunging themselves into the holy water in ritual, bodies being cremated, men doing laundry, pilgrims traveling by boat. It’s an astonishing place.
The cattle here roam the streets with absolute power. Among the chaos of the city, the cows walk into traffic unfazed, keeping a steady, slow, and tranquil pace. They remind me of the Aurochs in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.’
I’m staying on a campus at an artist residency. It’s very pleasant having my own apartment with a bedroom and studio space after 6 months of hostel life. I’ve picked up a case of Kingfisher, paint, and paper, so I am a very happy camper.
I know it’s lazy, but right now I’m going to rely on photographs to tell the story of my past few days. Besides exploring, I got down to work on some paintings. I’ll post stuff as I think it’s closing in on done. Check out my previous post below for today’s work.