In The Perpetual Presence of Death (Trailer)
We are now through with the post production of our documentary film on Aghori sadhus. Aghoris are radical renouncers, they eat and drink in human skulls; live in cremation grounds and indulge in rituals such as smearing ashes from pyres on their bodies. The aghoris are considered as the darkest of all saints.Here’s a sneak peek-
This film was shot in Varanasi, and shooting it was an experience in itself. Varanasi, also popularly also known as Benaras or Kashi has been referred to as the oldest living city in the world. The city has been the centre of religious activity since the oldest of times referred to in Hindu mythology. According to the Hindu mythology, Varanasi was the land on which Lord Shiva stood in the beginning of time as the universe was being created.
Ganga, a river that flows for over 2500 kms across India, is home to millions of Indians since the oldest of times. Ganga is considered holy by the Indians, so much so that it is referred to as “Mother Ganga” in most local conversations. Witnessing the Ganga arti is an enchanting experience too. It is a flamboyant religious display on the ghats of Varanasi. Every day at sunset, a group of young and well dressed pundits take the centrestage and the smell of incense and chants in praise of the river fills the ambience. Hundreds of people gather to witness this event everyday, the view is even more enchanting when witnessed from a boat on the river Ganga !
The steps leading down to the river are known as “ghats”. The city of Varanasi has over one hundred ghats. A number of these ghats are designated solely for the cremation of Hindus. In the city, things are not much different. Ill people populate the streets of Varanasi, waiting for their death. Since the times known to mankind, this city has been the home of Sadhus and Tantriks.
No other city in the world embraces death as does Varanasi. Hindus from across the globe travel to this holy city to perform the last rites of their loved ones. As stated by Diana Eck, “No other city on earth is as famous for death as is Varanasi… In Varanasi life is lived in the perpetual presence of death”.
On an average, the ghats of Varanasi witness over 250 public cremations every day, the last rites in Hindu religion are very elaborate. Close relatives often shave their head as a sign of mourning, rituals are performed for over two weeks and these rituals are most publically visible on the ghats of Varanasi.
After living on the ghats of Varanasi for a few days, one starts embracing death. The idea of dying seems less fearful. When it comes to accepting death as a part of life, the Aghoris seem to be above all.
P.S: About a year after my visit to Varanasi, I got an opportunity to shoot amidst the mighty Himalayas. Do check out this post, it talks about my experience of travelling to the mountain from New Delhi.