WOW -Witness Our World- Photographer Hiroshi Yamauchi
Varanasi INDIA 2007

To Varanasi – either by train, by bus, or on foot, a moment after a traveler steps in this city that lies on the bottom of the world, he or she will be welcome by innumerable eyes, both alive and dead, staring directly. It is hard to find a person with interests in India who doesn’t know the name Varanasi. The city lies between Varuna River in north and Assi River in south. Combination of the two rivers makes the name of the city. Located on a crescent shaped bank along the mother Ganga, Varanasi is considered as the forehead of Shiva, The god in Hindi mythology therefore it is a sanctuary for more than 3,000 years. It cannot be talked about without Ganga. The time flow of this city goes by the rhythm of deliberate reincarnation of water in the river. According to Hindi faith, one can emancipate from all worldly desires and worries and purify all sins in life after bathing in Ganga and letting ash of the body float on the river after death. Committing in these, it is believed, is the highest honor and happiness in Hindi value. Every year, more than a million pilgrims from all over India struggle along to this city. Varanasi is a city of bathing ghats and alleyways. Ghats are public bathing space with stairs stretching out to the river. They are former palaces and villas of lords and noble families. Locals and pilgrims bathe, pray, sing, cry, eat, drink, do laundry, brush teeth and die here. All alleyways in the city lead to one of 84 ghats. Countless alleyways are like a web of street showcases of life. From birth to death of both human and animals can be seen. It seems, as if for once, there is no boundary among all living creatures. This sanctuary is covered with people, mud, bricks, excrements of various animals, voices of chanting and smoke of Hindu rituals. Ganga and narrow alleyways in Varanasi are like in the relationship between the main artery and vessels carrying essences of Hindi cultures. Life and death are bluntly carried out, it seems almost impossible to observe, digest, react and try to make sense out of daily occurrences happening right in front of one’s eyes. In Varanasi, they tell you all human occupations fill only a split second in the great cycle of reincarnation. It happens, and then it is finished.

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