For the 80% of Indians who are Hindu, the River Ganges is considered sacred, her water holy. In the ancient city of Varanasi, the ghats that form the river’s edge teem with pilgrims and devotees who come for a ritual dip in the Ganges in this holiest of cities. The scene is spiritual and, at the same time festive. The streets and ghats are chaotic. The sounds and smells overwhelm the senses. Yet, in spite of the masses of people, there are moments of solitude, aloneness.
There are many boats plying the waters flowing past Varanasi, ferrying pilgrims from here to there. These beautiful wooden vessels, many ancient in their own right, allow their passengers a unique vantage point. While immersed in the spiritualness of the moment, they are temporarily separated from the chaos along the ghats.
I find those separated, yet included moments, very beautiful. In Indian mythology, boats are the vehicle that take you on the river between the earth and the other world. A perfect metaphor, I think.
And the boats. They are a work of art themselves. The crafts are built from timbers hand hewn on the banks of the Ganges, as they have been for centuries. In many ways, time does stand still along the river.