Varanasi Street Photography Workshop …. A place like no other 

Varanasi Street Photography Workshop 1About Varanasi . One of the seven holy cities in India

Mark Twain famously said “Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

Varanasi is truly unlike any other place in the world. One of the world’s oldest and holiest cities, you can really feel this in its atmosphere. The holy river, the ghats filled with life, the chaotic spirituality and more make this a city you can’t forget. From early morning to night, Varanasi is one magical place.

As Mark twain said everything here is full of character, feels like its been there forever andis a photographers dream as every corner you turn there are new and great photographic opportunities.

Id recommend staying at a hotel within walking distance of the main ghats so each the atmosphere in the morning can be savoured and at first light you can witness all the characters that are here on a daily basis such as seeing people bathe, street hairdressers, locals wahing laundry and clothes, kids playing with kites and cows walking around aimlessly.

Most people agree  that Varanasi is both magical and mysterious with rituals of life and death taking place in open view, whilst the sights, sounds and smells along the Ghats are something which you’ll never forget

Varanasi Street Photography Workshop 2

Places we visit on a Varanasi Street Photography Workshop

The first rule of photographing Varanasi on a street photography workshop is get up early and be at your location  before first light . Its a purley magical time of day and even more so in this truly religious and cultural epicentre of India . It really is an exprience you want to live, and document as a street photographer.

 

Travel to the other side of the river Ganges. Take a boat across the other side, its almost like you are on another place and almost desert like in its apperance. Here you will find religious sadus and other nomads leading the most simple life. Its a must to get there before the sun rises.

Ganga Aarti Evening festival. This takes place every evening on the main Dashashwamedh ghat. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma created this ghat to welcome Lord Shiva.As a photographer id normally visit here two or three times to really document the festival well. You can both hire a boat and witness the ceremony from the river which gives you a great view and then the second evening do this from the banks capturing the key moments as you now have an idea of what is happening.

The Ghats alongside the mother Ganges river. There are over 88 seperate ghats that are mainly used for bathing. The main ceremonial ghat is the Dashashwamedh ghat The main group contains around 25 of them, and it extends from Assi Ghat north to Raj Ghat. The ghats date back to the 14th century but most were rebuilt, along with Varanasi, in the 18th century by Maratha rulers.

Its def worth taking a boat one eveing or a stroll in the day down to the burning Ghat also known as the Manikarnika Ghat where you will see piles of wood for the fires line the Ganges. The fires continuously burn with a constant stream of dead bodies wrapped in cloth and carried through the old market lanes on makeshift wooden stretchers

The Tulsi Ghat is worth a visit again one early morning to witness the Mud wrestlers. The day always starts with a short prayer session at the tiny alter inside the mud ring which are devoted to Lord Rama Many men train here under the tutelage of doyen Siyaramji. You will see them doing many exercises such as pull ups, squats whilst some will swing around a gadha expertly around their heads, lift weights before getting into the ring to wrestle.

The Old markets, that include a small intimate goat traders market in the old muslim dominated area and the vegtable and small chicken markets . This is a great walk for street phortographers starting out at The goat maket and wandering the old ancient streets and ending up at the vegtable market . After the Veg market Id normally take a Tuk Tuk to the main train station looking for the older style trains with the open bar windows with station food sellers offering their wares to passengers. The fish market is just a short walk from the main Dashashwamedh Ghat.

The Old Town Just a short walk from the main Ghats where you will find life around every corner you turn with lots of photographic opportunities from shpos, temples and local characters. Id recommend using a wider lens here as the lanes are so narrow and they are often quite crowded with no sense of order you’ll see cows, rickshaws, dogs motorbikes and people all tyring to navigate the tiny streets.
The old Town is also home to several temples including the Kali temple and the Golden temple however both normally have long queue’s. A couple of places worth visiting for a pit stop are the Blue lassi Shop and the Dossa Cafe right next to the Vishwanath Gali.

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A great Time to Go !  Dev Deepawali

This festival is a major attraction, with the sight of millions of candle lamps lighting both the ghats and river Ganges its a breathtaking sight. Thousands of devotees from the holy city of Varanasi and surrounding villages, gather in the evening on the Dashashwamedh ghat to watch the Ganga Aarti.

The Dev Deepavali (“Festival of Lights of the Gods”) is where Kartik Poornima is celebrated in Varanasi. It always happens on the full moon of November / December fifteen days after Diwali. The steps of all the ghats on the riverfront of the Ganges River are lit with more than a million small earthen lamps and the gods are believed to descend to Earth to bathe in the Ganges on this day. .

During Dev Deepawali, houses are decorated with oil lamps and coloured designs on their front doors. Firecrackers are burnt at night, processions of decorated deities are taken out into the streets of Varanasi, and oil lamps are set afloat on the river.

The main rituals performed by devotees consist of taking a holy bath in the Ganges and offering the oil lighted lamps to mother Ganga in the evening. The Ganga aarti is also performed in the evening.

Over 100,000 pilgrims visit the riverfront to watch the river aglitter with lamps

Varanasi Street Photography Workshop 8Sarnath

Sarnarth is well worth a visit as its just 6 miles from Varanasi as It is one the four main holy sites of the Buddha. The other four being where Buddha was born (Lumbini), reached enlightenment (Bodhgaya), gave his first sermon (Sarnarth), and where he passed (Kushinagar). Its well worth 1/2 a day to go and experience and get some great people photographs.

You will see many Buddhists Monks from around the world practicing their various ceremonies on the lawns and around the main temple which is a giant domed shaped brick sculpture called a stupa apparently where Buddha gave his first talk.

Places Ive used

Hotel . The ganges Grand  http://www.gangesgrand.in/

we also ate here most evenings.. good value food

 

Restaurants 

Holy Chopsticks  http://www.holychopsticks.com/

Great food but no Alcohol

Barbeque Nation 

Dolphin Restaurant . http://thedolphinvaranasi.com/

Blue Lassi Shop

No website but easy to find in the old town.

 

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