One of the places I was most excited to visit during my 10 week travel across India was Varanasi. It was with good reason too and my excitement was not let down, as this truly fascinating City turned out to be my favourite place during my entire time in India.
When I first arrived I was immediately enticed by the maze of alleyways and narrow lanes, which made up the areas leading towards Varanasi's many Ghats and the Ganges river. They reminded me slightly of the Gothic quarter in Barcelona and were a great place for me to get lost in as I walked around with my camera and done some street and portrait photography - all of which you can see in my previous post and in the video below.
After wandering the alleyways I headed to Dasawamedh Ghat on the banks of the River Ganges, to watch the Ganga Aarti ceremony which is performed every evening. It is a religious and spiritual ceremony performed to the Goddess Ganga where priests offer fire and light to the Goddess along with chants and songs. The priests circle different torches of fire and smoke, they light incense and the whole thing is very well choreographed and impressive.
It was a very moving experience particularly as you can clearly see how much it means to the people watching it and it was certainly one of the best experiences I had during my entire time in India and one that I will not forget. This is exactly what I came to India for, to immerse myself in the culture and witness special events like this one which are truly unique to India.
Apart from just loving and being moved by simply watching it, I also of course photographed it and similarly it will remain one of my most memorable things I have photographed too.
Usually when you photograph any kind of event you are either limited to one specific seat or 'spot' or you are behind some sort of fence or barricade. The great thing about photographing the Ganga Aarti ceremony is that I could get real up close to the men performing the ceremony and could freely move around, all of which meant I could get a mixture of different and intimate photos from a variety of different angles and perspectives. I also just felt hugely privileged to be able to photograph something of such huge significance to so many people in India and I was really in my element trying to capture the emotion of the event.
Put all this together and it resulted in me getting some great photos that I am very happy with and many of which are probably some of my best photos from India. Almost every time I take photos, whether that's travelling somewhere in a new country or photographing landscapes more locally to my home in the Lake District, I usually always come away thinking and analysing how I could have done better, how I could have taken better photos - no matter how good they actually are, I am rarely ever completely happy with them.
On this occasion though, so special was the entire experience and being free to get my camera so close to the action and being able to move around freely as the ceremony went on, this is one of the very rare occasions where I completely happy with my photos. I hope you enjoy them too.
The following morning was also special, as I took a boat ride down the Ganges during sunrise to get another perspective on the City of Varanasi and it's many Ghats, which you will be able to see in my next post.