Varanasi: Portrait of a Civilization
100 days, 19 hours and 49 minutes.
StoryLTD brings to you acclaimed Indian photographer Raghu Rai’s most notable collection of works on the holy city of Varanasi.
Varanasi—or if one thinks of it romantically, then Benaras, or Kashi in some local languages—as a site of pilgrimage has been a muse to many photographers and artists, who often fall into the inadvertent trap of rendering their works through the “easy exoticism,” a termed coined by award winning writer Geoffrey C. Ward, that appears waiting and inviting in the very alleys of this beautiful place. Rai’s photographs, however, go beyond its spiritual essence, to capture the truth: that the sacred and profane cohabitate, where the filth of the streets go hand-in-hand with the devoutness and transcendence that permeates every molecule of this land. “Raghu has captured more of the city’s distinctive, timeless character than anyone else ever has...his pictures contain worlds within worlds,” says Ward in the introduction to Rai’s collected book of photographs “Varanasi: Portrait of a Civilization”.
Taken over more than three decades, these images of Varanasi document more than the spark of humanity and virtue evident within its hallowed lanes. They also expose the invisible photographer’s mad love for this old city: “Like a pilgrim, camera in my hand, I am drawn into the depths of an ancient civilization. Each trip is a new awakening, and though I have never taken a dip in the holy Ganga, I emerge purified and fulfilled.”
See also: Raghu Rai Photography: Music Maestros