Made this one in 2001. It was just after the attacks on the U.S. and a very strange time to be traveling. The tickets had already been purchased and I’d dreamed of this India trip for years. I was going an there was no way something as insignificant like global terrorism was going to keep me from it. India was wild. Not what I expected at all, and it took awhile to adapt. In backpacker circles, they had always said that for real adventure, India was Mecca. Travel there, and you can travel anywhere.
I could go on, and will add more later, but I’ll just focus on this image for the moment. It’s been said that dawn on the Ganges river is the most mystical time and place you can experience on this planet. The Ganges river itself is considered a god itself for Hindus and in this city, Varanasi (also known as Banares) it’s considered the most sacred and revered by it’s deity name “Ganga”. It’s even believed that if you can manage to die here, you can end the life/birth cycle and head straight to Nirvana/Heaven.
Because of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. and the following retaliation from the U.S. on Afghanistan, it was a rough time to be traveling internationally for sure.
One thing I wanted to make sure I accomplished in this oldest living city on the planet, was a rowboat ride on the Ganges at sunrise. It was rough dealing with all the canoe rowers, but finally found one that looked like it might not sink, and the rower’s eyes looked very serene. A deal was made and we were off. He wanted to know where I wanted to go, and I told him I didn’t care. I just wanted to be right in the middle of Ganga as the sun rose. Before I knew it, we were rowing by the ghats at top speed. Ghats are areas off to the edge of the Ganges where Hindu pilgrims meditate, give massages, do yoga, bath, celebrate life, and burn the dead.
It was so surreal that I could barely form any logical thought. I was completely in the moment and fixed on this one Hindu pilgrim meditating. Something inside tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Uh, you think you might want to make at least one photo of this, at least for the ol’ memory banks?” I answered, “Yeah! Hang on, I’m not prepared. Gotta turn this thing on and make sure I’ve got a setting that will work.”
The boat was moving so swiftly that I barely had time to turn on the camera. Before I knew it, we were about to pass out of range and I wasn’t going tot get the shot. I aimed, shot, and put the camera away. Later, I realized the one blind image made actually worked out. And this is it.
When I got back to the U.S., I learned that George Harrison of the Beatles had passed away. The article said that just before his passing, George had made one last trip to Varanasi to tour Hindu temples. Most that view this image either are sure the pilgrim is either female or male. For me, the pilgrim is male and most likely, Mr. Harrison himself.