Indian holy man in deep trance

Part one of a three part series on the Cremation grounds of Varanassi written together with Jordan De Lupis. For part two about the cremation grounds of Varanassi, click here. For part three about a religous group of cannibals, click this link.

Nestled on the banks of the sacred Ganges River, Varanasi, India, stands as a timeless testament to spirituality, mysticism, and cultural heritage. Known as the "City of Light" or "Banaras," this ancient city has been an abode of spiritual seekers and pilgrims for thousands of years. Its captivating charm, deeply rooted traditions, and a kaleidoscope of vibrant rituals have earned it a reputation as one of the holiest places in the world. At the heart of this spiritual metropolis lie its revered holy men, who embody the essence of Varanasi's mystique.

Indian holy men

Venturing into Varanasi is akin to stepping into a mystical realm where the boundaries between the earthly and the divine blur into an ethereal tapestry. The city pulsates with energy, and the fervor of the devoted fills the air. From dawn to dusk, the Ganges becomes a stage for an extraordinary spectacle of rituals and ceremonies performed by holy men, each donned in distinctive saffron robes that symbolize their renunciation of worldly attachments.

This is a so-called Naga-baba [Naga = Snake]

The holy men worship at a variety of temples throughout the city

This one performs tricks with his sword, literally wrapping his penis around the sword and occasionally having another person stand on the sword to show he has absolutely no pain, and thus - supernatural powers

Aghori Baba (cannibals that dress up and act like Shiva)

Some are more important than others, this is one of the leaders of Hinduism

And came with a large entourage

“We are the only group that calls the river Ganges  our mother, but also pollute the holy Ganges, people waste money on alcohol, instead of cleaning up the river”

He said in the speech.

People were worshipping his metal sandals while religious followers were standing next to him with the trident of shiva.

Life at the Ghats

Varanasi is revered as the City of Shiva due to its significant Shiva temples, notably the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, and its location along the sacred Ganges River. Mentioned in ancient Hindu texts, Varanasi attracts pilgrims and tourists seeking blessings and spiritual experiences related to Lord Shiva, making it a prominent center for Shiva worship in Hinduism.

Young and old dress up like him

Varanasi is home to 87 ghats along the Ganges River. Each ghat holds cultural, religious, and historical significance, making Varanasi one of the most important pilgrimage sites in India. Many are ancient and need to be fixed due to high waters

Temples are placed throughout the city, for a variety of Gods and Godesses

Because a river passes along the Ghat's, boats are incredibly important. Some people work on them in questionable outfits

An interesting thing I saw in the city is that people tend to dress up animals in human clothing. I've seen sheep, docs, cows and goats dressed up like that

Flowers are discharted into the river

When Lord Shiva was bathing a Mani (Jewel) from his earring fell into the kund, hence the name Manikarnika (Mani:Beads Karnam:Ear Angad: Ornament) Pilgrims from all over the world visit this temple to seek blessings from Lord Shiva.

The river is deeply polluted which can be seen in this timelapse.

Snake charmers

A sizeable percentage of the city are Brahmin, the highest Hindu caste - and the religious ones that memorise the important writings


Varanasi is a cannabis paradise, it is widely consumed because of its link to shiva. A famous way to consume it is through a Lassi - the socalled 'Bhang lassi'.

It got a good friend of mine so high that he was talking to shiva himself on the hostel roof for 6 hours.

City of the dead

There is a form of dead cult in the city. And the cremations run the city. It is believed that if you die in Varanasi, you are closer to obtaining Moksha - not reincarnating ever again.

Burning corpse at the cremation ground

More on this in article two, about the Manikarnika Ghat of Varanasi and the cremation grounds located on it.