Snapshots: Cremations in Varanasi

A man, wrapped in a white shroud, his head freshly shaved, sits mournfully and watches a burning pyre.

A bamboo ladder, supporting another body, it’s shape visible under an orange shroud, makes its way to its final immersion in Mother Ganges.

A few steps away, flames lick at another pyre, a body visible, a family waits patiently.

Tree trunks arrive by boat, and are carried by men to be neatly stacked in towering blocks; nearby the sound of an axe, cracks this wood into manageable sized lengths.

Discarded ladders litter the lower steps, interspersed with the brilliant flashes of orange fabric, partly submerged, now obsolete.

Swifts dip and soar overhead, a flock of pigeons are disturbed and circle the buildings up above, before once more finding their perch.

Cows stand idly by then settle down amidst the debris to chew cud. The omnipresent Pye dog picks it’s way down to the waters edge.

A purple kite flown by a child on a nearby roof climbs impossibly high then even higher into the sky.

Doms keep a watchful eye, overseeing these rituals which are their fate. Ashes are picked through, the main prize, a golden nugget from some jewellery or tooth.

Boats full of eager tourists sail by, some caught up in the moments of loss, some frustrated at not being able to photograph the scenes playing out in this most ancient and holy of India’s city’s. A burning candle, surrounded by flowers, someone’s offering bobs along in their wake.

A son performs his final duty, ashes are submerged in the river, her water thrown over the now defunct embers.

A body returning to the five elements from which it is made, fire, earth, water, air and ether.

A snapshot of a moment on a cremation ghat in Varanasi.


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