Whenever Kashi is talked about, immediately we see the Ghats, the pure water of the river Ganga and the ancient alleyways of the city of Kashi. It is every photographers dream to go to Kashi to take photographs one day. It is indeed a rare opportunity to get to visit Kashi for photography. One will find a story every step of the way while wandering in Kashi. If you rotate 360 degrees in the middle of the road, you will get a better photograph and story each time.
Throughout my travel, I have observed that you cannot fulfill your desire for photography regardless of the days that you spend there. I had been to Kashi in 2016 for photography and it was unlike anything that I have ever experienced. Kashi stands as a true testament to its greatness and diversity back since ancient times. Tourists, pilgrims, and saints travel from all around the world to congregate at Kashi to attain liberation for their ancestors which are also called as ‘Moksha’.
In order to attain liberation, one must learn how to detach themselves from worldly gains and understand the importance of maintaining a good demeanor. In Kashi, all of these things are taken care of and people come here to attain monkhood. I met an enormous number of people coming from very diverse walks of life. They explained their perspectives, opinions, and the importance of Kashi and due to these personalities, I got the opportunity to witness Lord Shankar himself in them. Every photo I captured seemed to revive an old memory or story of that place in front of my eyes.
I stayed in Kashi for 5 days. There is a stigma about crematoriums where people get goosebumps even if they are mentioned in a conversation, but I think that there are no purer places than crematoriums. I look at it as a place where people are completely rid of their pride and vanity and we can observe who they were in a very real sense. It is a place where a line is drawn between life and death. I stayed in such a crematorium for a total of three days. Of all the people I have seen in my life, I am the only one who I know who took the decision to photograph in a crematorium for three days straight. Although, everything I learned in that period was the ultimate truth. Not only did I get the opportunity to stay at a place where I will be at my end, but I also enjoyed it.
Every moment in the 5 days that I was at Kashi was spent being content and extremely self-reflective. I believe photography enables you to appreciate the ups and downs in life. It allows you to comprehend difficult situations and how to get over them as well. My time in Kashi was spent photographing every place and sentiment I could with my complete attention.
I am presenting these photos to you now. Every photo of Kashi has the ability to garner different emotions in everyone, and today I am expressing my feelings through my perspective of Kashi.
About As Dnyaneshwar Vaidya
Photography has been a hobby for me since 2015. Photography has taught me how to live life. I learned how to scour for new places, meet new people, and understand new traditions from various cultures because of it. I learned how to empathize with people’s feelings, may it be happy or sad. I learned how to live my life through others by living for them. I traveled in and around the state of Maharashtra and explored new places and met and understood people’s lives and also photographed them.
What really fascinated me and also made me feel proud as a human being was that even though there is an advent of the digital age, they haven’t forgotten their cultural roots. When I was in the stages of learning photography, I was blessed with 3 mentors and the effort that they extolled on me for giving me the ability to become who I am today is something that I am eternally grateful for and the debt that I have towards them can never be repaid for this.
I am a part of the Warkari community and hence, I spent my entire childhood under the blessing of this culture which expresses the idea of giving to the people generously. This influence meant that I was never told candidly to help anybody; it came naturally to me. Photography gave me an agency to understand the troubles of people and consider them my own and feel them with the same intensity.
As a photographer, I have never forgotten my boundaries or hurt anyone’s sentiments in order to get a shot. I have always followed a code of conduct where I don’t commit any action which will hurt someone’s feelings in order to get a good photo; in that case, I promptly let go of that opportunity. I feel like this quality of mine allowed me to be the first person in Western Maharashtra to ever receive 2 national and 2 international degrees as of today. My father, in his bout of happiness, felicitated me with a garland when he read this news in the newspaper. It was a very special and proud moment for both me and my family. As my work in photography gained traction, I started seeing my photos gain respect in various countries and one day, National Geographic Magazine published one of my photos from Pattankodoli in their issue. Till today, 15 of my photos have been published on their website and 60+ photos have been added to their favorites.
My photos have been exhibited in 36 countries as of now. My passion as a photographer also taught me to be sensitive to nature and I started exploring nature through jungles. I have also taken an initiative in increasing awareness about deforestation, man-made fires, hunting animals, etc and how they are harmful to our environment. My main subjects for photography are street and cultural photography, and I have met some amazing people because of this passion.
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All the pictures in this post are copyrighted As Dnyaneshwar Vaidya. Their reproduction, even in part, is forbidden without the explicit approval of the rightful owners.