Gazette columnist Carl Strock recently journeyed to the holy city of Varanasi, India. No place in the world is so beautiful, so foul and so otherworldly, he reports, and offers these photographs.
New Delhi: The doctor is in. Health care is reputed to be excellent for those who can afford it. This clinic was around the corner from our guest house, not far from the commercial center of the city, presumably for those who cannot afford the best.
Varanasi: Doing puja, or religious ritual, at the edge of the Ganges River as the sun comes up, which is a daily scene.
Sadhus, or holy men, and other seekers of alms line up daily on the stone steps leading from temples down to the river at Varanasi.
A sadhu graciously bestows a blessing on a passing photographer before asking for “money, money.”
Carrying water up from the Ganges, a daily chore for some.
One woman prays before ascending to a temple, while another sweeps behind her.
Breathing exercises early in the morning before a dip in the river.
Alleged holy men hang out all day near the temples of Varanasi. (Alleged, because I have no evidence one way or the other.)
More alleged holy men. They seemed to me to belong to another age.
An afternoon snooze in Varanasi. Cows are never far away.
Cows do service as a DPW in the streets of Varanasi, as do dogs and goats, though as far as filth goes, they add as much as they remove. Call it a recycling program.
Did someone say cows? They are everywhere in Varanasi and are treated with great deference. If you want to go there, try to go as a cow.
Goats, too, add to the ambience.
And monkeys. There are plenty of monkeys, and nobody bothers them. One swung onto our hotel balcony while my wife was sitting there minding her own business, and she was so inured by then she didn’t even scream.
They even get familiar with the deities.
A sadhu smokes some marijuana.
Welcoming a new day on the temple steps.
A Philippine tourist has doubts about the neighborhood outside the guest house where she stays with her photographer husband.
A Varanasi convenience store.
A woman prepares for her bath, on the edge of Varanasi.
Relaxing in front of her house, overlooking the Ganges.
I have been nowhere else in the world where scenes like this are common. You feel like you have stepped back a thousand years in time.
Watching the sun rise over the Ganges.