Manikarnika ghat

Publish date 30-05-2024

by Roberto Cristaudo

In the city of Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges, there is a place inaccessible to tourists. &` a limited area within which some actions are prohibited; speaking loudly, spitting and taking photographs. This is the Manikarnika Mahashamshan Ghat. &` one of the most popular cremation places ancient and sacred of all Hinduism; the faithful believe that dying here leads to liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.

It was the third time I returned to India and I had decided to sleep at the Ganpati Guest House, a cheap but strategically located accommodation on the banks of the river, a few steps from the Manikarnika. In previous years I had managed to establish a good relationship with the local guide, Mr Markandi who, precisely on the days I was in the city, sacred, he was busy with his father's funeral and the subsequent cremation
Meeting him, I looked for the right words to say but, before I started speaking, he anticipated me. with a big smile thanking me for being there to “celebrate” together with his family that important moment. He said exactly that. “celebrate” …

In the following years I understood well the meaning of that unexpected attitude and how unsettling situations can be if we don't consider the context, the culture and the place where we find ourselves. Manikarnika Ghat remains one of the most incredible that I know. I go there early in the morning and wandering among the piles of sandalwood, necessary for the funeral pyres, I always find something interesting to photograph.

An extraordinary experience born by chance is It was the beginning of a relationship of trust with Markandi, a friendship that still lasts today and which has allowed me, over the years, to photograph that incredible place inaccessible to most people.

Text and photos Roberto Cristaudo
Instagram @robertocristaudo.viaggi
NP April 2024

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