WOMEN OF KASHI


Varanasi, Kashi, City of Light. Home to many elderly Hindu migrants that come to the city with the hope that when they die their bodies will be cremated on the banks of the river Ganga and when their ashes merge with the muddied water they will be closer to receiving 'moksha', liberation from the cycle of reincarnation.


In the past in India, the loss of a husband stigmatized a bereaved wife. Widowed women were not welcome to participate in religious ceremonies, considered a bad omen; they were treated as untouchables and often cast away from their communities.


This adopted belief common to Hindus in India is also predominant in Nepal and Bangladesh, with many widows from the neighbouring countries traveling far from their homelands closer to the Hindu holy cities.


Ostracised from their families, their culture and society, many women were left to fend for themselves living in extreme poverty. Child marriage, a common tradition meant child brides were isolated at a young age, unable to remarry and left without resources and family. 


Many women that I met in Varanasi had been widowed at a young age, as young as 10, abandoned from all they had known, alienated and alone they made their way to Varanasi to live an ascetic life. Some eventually found shelter in the ashrams strewn throughout the city whilst others were forced to live on the streets and around the Ghats.


I wanted to portray these women in the light that I saw them, surrounded by their daily rituals, specifically moments of prayer where I sensed they found some peace. This story, which I began in 2013, is a small glimpse of a larger long-term project following the daily realities of women in India.

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