A young boy waits for his father as the sun rises over the Ganges river in Varanasi. The sun god Surya is worshipped at sunrise in Varanasi. Even if people cannot make it down to the river for worship, they will worship Surya at their homes. Here is an article on the sun god Surya.
A lane in Varanasi before work begins in the morning. On the right a man talks to someone not seen inside a shop. Ahead a man walks to work. A building in the background is covered from the roof all the way to the street as it undergoes exterior remodeling. Business in Varanasi gets started between 10 am and 11 am. Rush hour is around 9 am. The roads can get really crowded when the buses go out to pickup and drop off children from school. At that time, it's necessary to take the backroads of Varanasi, of which, there are plenty. Varanasi is the fourth most crowded city in India behind Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai. That being the case, there is nothing so peaceful as watching the sunrise at 6 am over Ganges river.
This is a typical lane in Varanasi. Ahead there is a temple on the right side. Notice the brick work on the buildings. You can tell from the brick work that these buildings were built a long time ago as the bricks are thinly made. Today's bricks look much like what is used in America--about twice as thick as those which are seen here. This lane has a sewer underneath as can be seen from the center stone in the foreground and background. These stones are the "Manhole Covers" of Varanasi. Steel or iron are not used for manhole covers. This could be because they will be stolen or because they are expensive to make. Click here to see an inventory of brick designs from a local kiln Prayag Bricks.
There are a good dozen palaces along the Ganges river in Varanasi of which, the one on the left is an example. You can see even from this angle, that the walls are built of heavy stone. Only the palaces are able to withstand the monsoon flood waters, which is why they alone are built close to the river. Uttar Pradesh being the most densely populated state in India, it is not surprising that the Ganges river "supports one of the world's highest density of humans." The most amazing times on the river are two or three days after the full moon when, the moon rise is set back several hours to about 6 pm. It rises right over the Ganges river. If you get there on time, you can see it lift up over the trees beyond the river. A moonrise is always special, but what makes this most impressive is its dark red hue. I personally am convinced that the reason Varanasi is located at this exact spot is because the river runs north and south for several miles at this point. It's the perfect spot for the sunrise as well as a moonrise! But getting back to the river, it is quickly being drained and seems to be at its lowest level ever--partially on account of a new dam which was built at Tehri in the Garhwal District in the Indian State of Uttarakhand. The river is now completely black from sewage. I am told that most of the sewage is not from people bathing in it, but from factories. There are lots of tiny "factories" in Varanasi as well as huge ones outside of the city. If the pollution continues to get worse, the Ganges will become a dead river meaning it does not have the oxygen needed to support aquatic life. After the conclusion of the Copenhagen climate summit, the minister for health (I think) visited Varanasi and was led on a tour of the ghats. He was shown several of the most damaging sewage runoff locations. He looked worried. Truthfully, I'm not sure what can be done here to clean sewage water before it enters the river. Either the factories must close or the Ganges will remain polluted because there is absolutely no space inside the city for the installation of sewage tanks. Click here to read more detailed information on the Ganges river.
Varanasi on an overcast day. The Kewat people live all along the river Ganges plying their boats. They claim heritage from an original ferryman who took Ram, his brother and Ram's wife Sita across the Ganges river--an occurrence in the epic story titled "Ramayana." They used to make a good living fishing--especially during spawning season when sea fish swim up the Ganges entering from the Bay of Bengal. Unfortunately, modern days have not been good to the Kewat people as the ever increasing pollution as well as the damning of the Ganges have destroyed the fish industry--their main source of income. In Varanasi, the Kewat people live right next to the ghats in small and cramped housing. They do well financially during the tourist season (October-March). If you happen to be in Varanasi and want to take a boat ride, know that they will bargain hard as those rupees might be their only income for the day. Kewat people are hardened by life's troubles, but they are sweet on in the inside and are hard workers.
Gate and door in Varanasi. Notice the fish set above the door. Engraving is part and parcel of the temples and the houses in Varanasi. On the left of the photo, the plaster has fallen off revealing the brick underneath. All the old buildings are build using brick and plaster.
A solitary lane in BHU looking warm at mid day. As most of the students have left for home on summer vacations one will seldom see anyone on this lane. It was interesting to find these two riding bicycle and sweating happily.
A goat with its young. You can always tell a Muslim household by the ubiquitous goat tied up outside the house. In this case, the goat is female and has babies. Often, the goats are let free to run around the ghats along the river to forage for food. As you might imagine, there's not much food to be found on the concrete steps leading to the river. However, there are popcorn sellers who make popcorn fresh on the ghats. Especially in the evenings, you'll find lots of people enjoying popcorn and a cool breeze on the steps. Its here that the goats congregate to eat the loose corns which drop from the hands of the tourists.
One of the spots where cotton sleeping mats are made in Varanasi.
A man feeds a small fire while drummers keep the beat around it.
These carts are used to take children to and from school. From the looks of this one, it probably fits three or four on each side. Being a taxi service for school children is a steady job for a rickshaw puller in Varanasi. Often, it is hard work and the puller will have to dismount and push the cart up hills and over dirt roads. In the summer it can be quite taxing. As can be seen, these carts have roofs to protect from sun and rain. Here's an interesting article on the history of the rickshaw around the world.
This photo was taken at Nayaa Sardak "New Road" just after you make the turn from Church crossing. There are lots of warehouse type shops selling plywood, glass, aluminum--you name it. Nayaa Sardak area is known for it's majority Muslim population and for the kind of food that they make--chicken and goat meat. It's better to go in the evening between 6-8 pm to the restaurants. However, don't go late because goat meat is made in limited quantities. When it's gone there won't be seconds!
A cart of liquid petroleum gas cylinders which are used for household cooking. To get a cylinder, one has to show address proof and pay about $75 which includes a two burner stove as well. Every twenty-one days, one is allowed to request a refill by going to the gas dealer from which they received the initial service. A fresh 15 kilogram cylinder costs $7 dollars and lasts up to three months depending on usage. It's amazing to me how hard the guys work who deliver the cylinders. They bike all day pulling these carts in rain or shine and carry them on their shoulders up several flights of stairs. Without these guys helping, I'm not sure how I would get a cylinder home! Here is an article on liquid petroleum gas.
Scindia Ghat (also called Scindias and Shinde) borders Manikarnik, India to the north, with its Shiva temple lying partially submerged in the Ganges River as a result of excessive weight of the ghats' construction, about 150 years ago. Above the ghat, several of Kashi’s most influential shrines are located within the tight maze of alleys of Siddha Kshetra (Field of Fulfillment). According to mythology, Agni, the Hindu God of Fire was born here. Hindu devotees propitiate at this place to Vireshwara, the Lord of all heroes, for a son. Taken from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scindia_(Shinde)_Ghat).
This photo was taken just south of Assi ghat towards Ravidas ghat. The Yadav people group are in charge of water buffalo which you can see walking in the distance. In the foreground, people hang their clothes and possessions on stacked bricks. In the middle of the photo are neatly stacked water buffalo patties drying in the sun. These patties are used as fuel for cooking. All over Varanasi these patties are made and sold. Click here to read up on cow/buffalo dung and its preparation!
Assi ghat from the ganges river looking up at the steps. Notice the temple in the background. It was built by the a Maharani (queen) of a district in Bihar. That queen was owner of what is now Hotel Ganges View--a beautifully restored hotel at Assi ghat. To learn more about Hotel Ganges View click here.
Children pose for a picture on a tractor in an alley in the old city of Varanasi.
The Ganges river front at night in Varanasi.
A mother and child take a nap with the necessary blanket.
A woman loading dried cow patties in a basket onto the head of another woman.
Boy dumping water out of a boat on the Ganges river in Varanasi.
Sunrise view through a lantern on the Ganges with the pontoon bridge in the background.