Varanasi: City Immersed in Prayer
Varanasi, also known as Kashi and Banaras, is a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C.E. Regarded as the spiritual capital of India, the “City of Light” draws Hindu pilgrims who bathe in the Ganges River’s sacred waters for prayer and ritual. In Varanasi, one is in some sort of time warp where one is living in history as if time has never stopped, where both residents and pilgrims, continue their daily practices and worship in ways relatively unchanged for millennia, a continuum of thousands of years. Being in Varanasi is like being on a thread pulled from a cloth that dates back to the beginning of time. Here, one doesn’t “see” a ruin, as one does in other ancient civilizations, but discovers a living city where history hasn’t stopped.
David Scheinbaum guides us, with his camera, through the city’s winding streets that are filled with thousands of shrines and temples at virtually every turn. He takes us on an incredible visual journey to the Ganges, the sacred river where bathers are in prayer, and to the funerary Ghats, steps that lead down to the river where cremations take place, filling the air with incense and burning pyres. Hindus believe that being cremated along the banks of the holy Ganges allows one to break the cycle of death and rebirth and attain Moksha (salvation), making it a major center for pilgrimages.
David Scheinbaum’s beautiful, soulful photographs present an ancient, holy city immersed in prayer. And contributions by Diana L. Eck and BJ Miller, noted scholars and writers, shed light on the special qualities that make Varanasi the holy city it has always been, including the powerful embrace of life and death.