This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Varanasi 2000: Homage to Kali

Clothes washing in the early morning
almost nothing has changed in this view since the same view in 1976

My second trip to Varanasi was in January 2000. I had left Jerusalem and got stuck in Frankfurt airport because they had canceled my reservations accidentally when my son changed his bookings. It proved impossible to fly into India, so after three days, Lufthansa offered to fly me to Bangkok and back from there to Kathmandu, from where I could go overland to Varanasi and exit India again through Delhi, which I did.

The Yogi Lodge, but is it the "real" Yogi Lodge?

I checked in at the Yogo Lodge, well maybe it was, because apparently at the time there were two Yogi Lodges, each masquerading as the other. Anyway it was situated not far from Kedar Ghat where I had been staying in 1976, so it was in a sense 'home ground'.

First thing in the morning , I took off along the river bank to photograph the activity at sunrise, heading down stream past the bathing ghats, eventually ending up at the burning ghats, and returning along the little alleyways that run parallel to the river in the old part of the city which autos cannot reach.

I hadn't come as simply a tourist, but to make a gesture to the cosmic feminine, by paying my respects to Kali, the black Goddess, who with Shiva as Pashupatinath Lord of the Animals, can be seen all the way back to the reliefs of the Indus Valley civilizations of Harappa and Mojendaro, four thousand years ago. You will find a little position piece towards the end, in the name of Shiva and Krishna, videoed for the "Apocalypsia" documentary.

Otherwise this is a largely visual photo blog, so you can experience the atmosphere and ambience of wandering the alleyways and ghats of the ancient city that stands forever on the edge of time.

Body being prepared for cremation at the burning ghats

Waiting for a rupee

A series of images of Kali rampant on Shiva

This Kali image is my favourite

Young girl giving a tongue roll reminiscent of Kali

Kite flying is a civic pastime

Taking the plunge

A very patient business woman

Shaving and begging for alms

Beggars lining the same alley from the ghats we saw in the 1976 blog

The far side of the Ganges is a deserted flood plain

I filmed video with the viewfinder screen turned towards the people I was filming so they could see themselves which was a great stimulus to kids to interact with the camera.

A Hanuman-Ram temple covered in monkeys with a group chanting
and a blissed-out man frenetically ringing the bell in a trance

Video of the chanting, monkeys and children on the ghat

This girl became fascinated by the filming
and drew her siblings and friends into the picture

More kite flying - some of these extraordinarily high in the sky

Here is my position piece running together the Judeo-Christian and Vedantic traditions and placing Kali as the Indus Valley ancient Queen of the South otherwise ascribed to the Queen of South Arabian Sheba (Saba):

I'm here in Varanasi I've made a pilgrimage half way across the planet at least to come here after going to Jerusalem, and I'm turning the tables. The Shulamte, the black queen, the Queen of Sheba, Jesus said the Queen [of the South] would return and curse the men of this generation, and that’s true too. But I've made the pilgrimage here for Kali, who is the black madonna of history, far more ancient than the Queen of Sheba. Kali may be bloodthirsty, but time itself is bloodthirsty and Kali's name stands beside time so the eternal nature of the male god is counter-balanced by the temporal nature of all things, and my hair is going grey because of time.

We need to pay our respects to Kali and to respect the Vedantic tradition that runs way back to Mojendaro and Harappa, the Indus Valley civilizations long before the Vedas, long before the Aryans came into India, and I stand here wearing a Tibetan jacket, also having taken Buddhist vows and Buddhism is really just one part of the ancient Indian tradition, just as Christianity is just one part of the ancient Jewish tradition, so in seeking the sacred marriage of the paths, the reunion of Christianity and Judaism, I also seek the reunion of Buddhism and the Vedantic path and pay respects to the Vedantic path as the source, as the Ganga, the river of the meditative tradition, and in making this pilgrimage, I want to stress that the Judeo-Christian paths are not the only or the valid path and that I feel a great sense of affinity as ... all sadhus are in a sense Shiva incarnate and you have also the persona of Krishna, there's a sense of Krishna and being Christ, they have a similar root, just as the women of Galilee gave unto Jesus of their very substance, so Krishna courted the cowgirls, and so in the Indian story, Jesus is both Shiva and Krishna together, and so I stand as an incarnation of Shiva and Krshna, paying my respects to Kali here at Varanasi.

The kite flyers salute

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