Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world going back almost 5000 years by some accounts.
It is also one of the holiest cities in India and one of the major stops on the India tourist trail. While it is one of the most fascinating places on this planet, it can also be overwhelming for some. Its streets and alleys are crowded, bustling, noisy and chaotic.
I had the opportunity to spend a few days photographing in Varanasi. One of the most memorable experiences I had in Varanasi was a small excursion set up by Loculars that took me up the river into this little-known fairy tale like fishing village in the outskirts of the city. I was promised that this village was chaos free as well as tourist free.
The trip started with a boat ride on the holy Ganges river. The boat trip ride itself was a good way to document the various activities on the ghats of Varanasi – people praying, bathing, burning bodies, washing clothes to name a few. An hour later we landed on the banks of the Ganges. No jetty here..just a few rocks to balance yourself as you get off the boat.
Not a tourist in sight, we were welcomed with curious glances
Life in this village was a stark contrast from the main city. Not a tourist in sight. No crowds. No cars, buses or bikes honking along. Only the sounds of birds chirping, chickens and goats walking by and the occasional bell ringing on a bicycle. Life here is slow and simple. For me, it was a welcome respite from the chaos of the main city.
The soul of India lives in its villages – Mahatma Gandhi
The main occupation for the villagers here was fishing and traditional hand weaving of fishing nets and the famed Varanasi Saree (you can read more about hand weaving sarees in an earlier blog post). The one thing that made this village stand out from any other village I had come across in India, were the murals and the street art. Apparently, one of the children of the villagers left the village to go to art school and came back and created these beautiful, colorful, vibrant murals on the walls of the houses that line the streets here. These colors complimented the colorful attire of the local people perfectly and made for some wonderful photo opportunities. All of the art here was themed on fishing.
The personal connections the Loculars photographer had developed over time, paid its dividends here. I was invited into local homes, had many a friendly conversation and visited quite a few workshops where local artisans were hand weaving the famed Varanasi Sarees.
Ultimately it was the openness and the warmth of the locals and the human connection in this charming, colorful and idyllic village setting that made this whole experience memorable and a perfect add-on to my trip to Varanasi.
If you are interested in this experience on your Varanasi trip please contact Loculars at firstname.lastname@example.org