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Varanasi is a sacred city, the capital of death

To be cremated in a sacred city, to have a chance to break free from the endless cycle of rebirths, to immerse oneself in the waters of a sacred river – these are the goals pursued by Hindus as they embark on their journey to the city of Varanasi. Some have already found their peace in the fire, while others come to await their hour.

The Man Praying on the Banks of the Ganges River, Varanasi, India, 16/10/2023

On the way to the waterfront, a traveler inevitably encounters a vast number of maimed individuals for whom disability has become a means of earning a living and a way of survival. Approaching the sacred River Ganges, one is met with a remarkable sight: people bathing and reveling in the waters of one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

The Dogs, Varanasi, India, 16/10/2023

Strolling along the promenade, blending in with the crowd, you are surrounded by people whose worldview differs so significantly from what we are accustomed to that you simply drift along, playing the role of an observer. If you look closely, you can see bathing dogs, women washing dirty laundry, children brushing their teeth, as well as remnants of bodies that were not consumed by the fire at night.

The chaos unfolding around is so commonplace and natural for the locals, and so incredible for travelers, that only two questions swirl in the mind – “How?!” and “Why?!”

Morning Yoga, Varanasi, India, 16/10/2023

As night falls, more and more people gather on the waterfront to take part in the breathtaking ritual of Aarti. Thousands of people surround the priests, both from the shore and from the water, to witness the fire dance accompanied by ritual music.

While enjoying this spectacle and being impressed by what is happening, not everyone will notice that literally 100 meters from the ritual, cremations are taking place. People bid farewell to deceased family members, escorting them on their final journey. The pyres burn until dawn.

The Girl in a Shiva Costume, Varanasi, India, 16/10/2023
People Gather for the Beginning of the Aarti Ritual, Varanasi, India, 16/10/2023
The Aarti Fire Ritual, Varanasi, India, 16/10/2023
The Father Carries His Deceased Child, Varanasi, India, 17/10/2023
Men Bathing in the Ganges River, Varanasi, India, 17/10/2023
Aghori, Varanasi, India, 17/10/2023
Snake Charmer, Varanasi, India, 17/10/2023
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Artem Khazov

I am a photographer from St. Petersburg and have been doing photography for over 5 years. I specialize in capturing life in all its… More »

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