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.
A boatman taking a break.
A yogi prepares a paste that, as best I could understand, would be used to adorn his dead father, though I might have been wrong about that. Language was a problem.
An early morning dip in the sacred river.
Pilgrims come from all over India to the holy city of Varanasi. (Full disclosure: the background of the original photo was cluttered; I obliterated it with computer software.)
Pilgrims dress in all sorts of ways that one does not see in Clifton Park.
Peas for sale on a market street in Varanasi.
The cremation grounds of Manikarnika Ghat, where bodies are burned all day and all night.
A woman described to me as a nurse for those who come to the ghat to wait to die.
Mourners get their heads shaved at the ghat before putting on white robes and burning the bodies of their dead relatives.
Setting fire to a body, using not matches but fire obtained from a flame in the temple that has supposedly been kept alive for the past 3,000 years.
Mourner at his father’s pyre.
Sarnath, near Varanasi, is where the Buddha is supposed to have preached his first sermon and is therefore a site of Buddhist pilgrimage. Here Vietnamese nuns pray as they circle the Dhamekh Stupa, the principal Buddhist monument.
Another nun makes a move at the stupa.
Japanese pilgrims pray at the Dhamekh Stupa.
In the Majnu Ka Tila Tibetan neighborhood, back in Dehlhi, monks pray in their temple before a portrait of the Dalia Lama.
One of the sorriest sights in India is a pair of tourists mugging in front of the Taj Mahal, as pleased with themselves as if they had built it. It makes you want to never travel again.
Some tourists will submit to anything for the novelty of it. Here one submits to an open-air shave on the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi.