This had been my first tweet about the Varanasi series and I have been struggling ever since to pen down my trip memories better. The great Hindu city which had also been known by the names of Benaras and Kashi, had left me mesmerized by its completeness and in my eyes, it had been like a real full circle; one which had encompassed every possible feeling, emotion, sensibility and reality existing on earth. Supposedly founded by Lord Shiva himself, Varanasi unlike most existences on earth had refused to ever wane in religious importance and Buddha is also believed to have started Buddhism here. With the tide of time, the city’s religious importance had grown and despite the eventual advent of Muslim rule, Varanasi had continued to be one of the strongest centers of Hinduism studies and culture.

A hot bed of Hindu intellectuals, poets and educators, Kashi had been known as the City of Moksha and anyone dying or cremated there is guaranteed liberation from the cycle of births and rebirths. This had drawn hordes of pilgrims, widows, old and the ailing to the city throughout centuries and rich Hindus had showered Kashi with guesthouses, temples, widow homes, orphanages etc. With so much of religious traction, rush to do good deeds and money centering around Varanasi, it had been no wonder that the city had been very prosperous too and trade had thrived there for ages.

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Varanasi is one active city

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With the decadence of time

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And rich historical importance in its hands

Incidentally, Varanasi had also fallen on an ancient trade route and remnants of its past riches had still been strongly visible throughout the holy city. Stretching along the sweeping length of the curvaceous river Ganges, the most photogenic part of Varanasi had tumbled into the water in cascade of stone steps and an array of shrines, temples, palaces and mansions had lined along them. The rest of the city had somehow seemed to have radiated away from the river in a tight mesh of narrow, winding lanes and commerce too have decreased in strength in the same pattern. A great center for dhrupad style of classical Indian music and Sanskrit, Varanasi had been home to many exquisite art and crafts and the city had been famous for wooden toys, glass bangles and brass ware. Some of India’s finest silks and brocades embroidered with real gold and silver thread had been produced in Benaras and the city’s iconic heart shaped paan leaves had great demand throughout the country. All this commerce had given rise to many more supporting small or large scale industries and Benaras throbs 24/7 with busy activities. From full blown markets, lanes dedicated to particular trades to hole in the wall shops and studios, Varanasi had been one huge commercial hub and the city had driven its immigrants and residents into trade with equal fervour.

This passion however, owing to Varanasi’s timelessness had not blazed with energy and the city lanes had offered extremely photogenic scenes of soft, mellow commercialism. This had perhaps been my most poignant Varanasi memory and at times I had time drip there slowly like warm, melting molasses. From the ironmen, paan auctioneers, morning flower market sellers, obscure sweets, spices and tendua (cigar leaves) wholesale dealers, roadside dentists, barbers, Banarasi weavers, kite makers, sweetmeat chefs, ghat masseuse, nightly street food vendors to holy men, the humans of Varansi had moved with an unthinkable langour and time had seemed to have lost its way among the labyrinthine web of old lanes. Thus, the people of Varanasi had time to laugh, smile, gossip, swat flies, snooze at work, sip endless cups of tea, preen before handheld mirrors and some of My Varanasi’s most photogenic moments had been spent photographing them.

So, presenting the next photo story set from My Varanasi series and this one is dedicated to the souls who give the city its relentless, unapologetic character.

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That’s why the humans of Varanasi

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Have time to smile

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Preen, groom

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Pamper and

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Indulge in taking time for granted

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Obscure professions like the lemon chili seller

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Cigar leaves dealer

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Sweetmeat chef

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And kite makers

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Thrive here

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Art and

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Crafts flourish here

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And the humans of Varanasi

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Make the city exist

RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE