Street Photography from Varanasi

Although I am loath to go on media and organised FAM trips; a word of advice from a well wisher made me say yes to the invite from Uttar Pradesh Tourism Board. I like exploring places in my own carefree style and have realised that the whirlwind operations of cramming in and ticking off places from a list is not what I am keen on doing.

It turned out to be a great decision. Among the three cities on offer, I opted for Varanasi and chose to spend more time on my own after the UP Tourism Travel Writers’ Conclave was over.

This way I could live by the ghats and experience Varanasi as it is meant to be experienced, for they say life in Kāshi has existed like this for over 2500 years.

The first thing that strikes you in Varanasi is the openness and proximity to death. I spotted this near Lanka on the way to BHU (Banaras Hindu University).

Death in Kāshi is not a feared death. Death in Kāshi is death known and faced, transformed and transcended. ~ Banaras by Diana L. Eck.

The cool Sadhus of Varanasi : He was seen smoking a cigarette and indicated that he wanted his picture taken.
The timeless lanes of Varanasi : This was clicked while on a walk from Assi Ghat. A lassi shop located adjacent to a temple or maybe in the temple premises itself.

Varanasi seems so devoid of space that people transact business in the smallest possible spaces. On the left is a paan wallah and on the right is a general store on wheels!

Chai in Banaras is something else. There is finesse involved in the almost mechanical proceedings, the tea is served in Kulhad (earthen pots) and I kept asking for second and third helpings most times. I shall most probably be doing a separate post on chai in Varanasi!
This city has space for everyone : This is Kāshi (Where the soul finds salvation). A dog lazes in a rickshaw, a loudspeaker blares somewhere, while the dead keep coming to get cremated.
The city of the living and the city of the dead; and the city of the living dead.

People go to various places in the world to live it up, but they come to Varanasi to die.

What are you looking at? One of the meanest looks that I encountered in Varanasi.

Varanasi resides in its narrow lanes and the ghats. Conversations and opinions flow freely in the chai addas and before you realise it ‘Your soul already has found home in Banaras.

Varanasi effortlessly blends the new with the old. Tourists jostle with the cows and the pilgrim crowds and most find peace in the most cacophonous environment they are likely to ever find.
I think that is an entirely Japanese lane of guest houses in some by-lane of the ghats of Varanasi.
Painting the ghats a pleasant blue. The ghats are the centre of all activity in Benaras and tourists and travellers may find it brutal and crazy at first with the pollution and noise, Benaras grows on you if you let yourself go.

The Mughals ran through Varanasi and destroyed the entire city. Although few buildings in Banaras are more than 200 years old, the city itself appears timeless.

Cheerfully peeping through the exquisite wooden window in the Nepali Temple compound close to Dashashawamedh Ghat in Varanasi.
This is how small the lanes in Varanasi are. Most times there is just enough space for two people to cross. I was fascinated with the timeless doors and shall create a separate post on ‘Doors of Varanasi.’

Siesta time in Banaras. People will be seen lying down on every little space that they can find, someone will peruse you with a dreamy eye and will still try to tell you something. It seems to be an eternally poor city, and yet the heart is rich in Kāshi. 

I think this was an idli selling stall on Assi Ghat; everything had been sold out and the Sadhu sat nonchalantly. I just had to click this moment.
Although the Swachh Bharat & Swachh Kashi campaigns have worked wonders for cleaning the filth of Varanasi, there is still a lot of work to be done.
Love blossoms under the shadow of the sun on the ghats on the Ganges in the eternal city of Kāshi.
‘Chai, chai’ – There is a bustling market in Varanasi : Perhaps it served as a business town in earlier times and used to serve traders from Nepal too.

Aurangzeb destroyed the temples and erected Mosques on the same foundations, thus Hindus and Muslims co-exist side by side in Varanasi.

In the second photograph : You are never too far away from a Bombay Bhel Puri.

The coolest Sadhu ever! Standing bang in the middle of the main road connecting Dashashawamedh Ghat with the rest of Varanasi. It was as if the world ceased to exist and time stood still.
I can’t even… Hidden gems like these everywhere in Varanasi.

I was invited to Varanasi by Uttar Pradesh Tourism in Association with Lonely Planet Magazine India. Views as always are my own.

For more travel stories, anecdotes and experiences connect with me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


17 thoughts on “Street Photography from Varanasi”

  1. Okay. First things first.

    That Nepali temple pic is WOW.

    The picture right below it is WOWer:)

    Thanks for bringing back memories of Banaras through your post. I was there earlier this year, walking in these absolutely narrow gallis and bowled over by the chaos of the place.
    I will wait for your Doors of Banaras post. I had planned to do one too but it never saw the light of the day 😀 Hehe. Sometime next year maybe :p

    1. HAHAHA, you are the best! I was fascinated with Banaras and one of the chief reasons was your mind-blowing post earlier this year.

      I have planned a series of 5-6 posts on Varanasi and there is a separate one planned for Pashupatinath Nepali Temple. You will love the intricate carvings on the main temple. Cheers and thanks again.

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  5. Indian Studio Destination Management Co., Varanasi

    Great clicks at the Photographer’s Paradise that is Varanasi/Benaras

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