Faces Of India : MahaShivaratri In Banaras 1

I feel that Banaras, as it had been for ancient India, still is the most exciting place in the country. It is exciting, because it is timeless and it has managed to walk the ways of the modern 21st century western world India and still keep India’s art/culture and spirituality alive like no other place in the country.
Banaras is definitely one of the best places to observe most of the hindu and muslim festivals.
Here is first half of a portrait series that I did on one of the many procession troups that take to the streets of Banaras on Maha ShivaRatri and jam up the entire city. People – young kids, and grown ups dress up to represent the good and the bad side of an individual and society through mythological characters.
This two part series captures some young kids from Banaras representing the age old duality of life and society – the good and the bad.
This first part shows portraits of kids dressed up to represent the bad/the evil, as demons and ghosts to take part in Lord Shiva’s ceremonial marriage processions.
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The second part of this series will be on portraits of people representing the good.
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Baba Jagmohan Giri : An Encounter with A Naga Baba in Benares

Jagmohan Giri holding a flute seller's stand.

Jagmohan Giri holding a flute seller’s stand.

The heavy rains that ended Kumbh Mela a week earlier than it was supposed to end in February 2013 forced me to reconsider my initial plans of staying at the Mela till March 10 for Maha Shivaratri. So, I decided to join some of my friends to Benares to attend a friend’s engagement ceremony that was supposed to take place on the banks of the Ganges river opposite Assi ghat. There I met Late Baba Jagmohan Giri, a 30 something year old Naga baba from Juna Akhara, who had taken up the life of a Naga sadhu to get rid of all his past crimes.  Turning into a Sadhu requires one to dissolve their existing identity; and with the dissolved identity all the acts of the past get dissolved too. At least that is the hope with which a lot of people turn to the life of a Sadhu — to run away from their past crimes.

Jagmohan Giri himself spoke of having committed a murder a few years ago.

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Late Baba Jagmohan Giri of Juna akhara sitting by the eastern bank of Ganges river in Banaras. Next to him is something that you don’t usually see a Sadhu with- alcohol(champagne) that was brought to celebrate a friend’s engagement. But Baba Jagmohan was under a lot of fire from his fellow Babas for his alcohol addiction. Smoking weed/hash is an accepted and an integral part of a Sadhu’s life. But alcohol is considered to be a complete no no.

Jagmohan Giri

Just a few days before these photos Baba Jagmohan had been attacked and beaten up some other Sadhus over this same alcohol issue. But Jagmohan Giri was deeply troubled by his rough life experiences and too deep into alcohol, weed and crack addiction to be pulled out of it without love. And that’s something I think he never found till health complications due to his drug problems claimed his life in 2014.

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Baba Jagmohan Giri emotionally questioning – “why everybody in his life always used and abused him?”

 He kept saying that everybody in his life used and abused him and he repeatedly asked why he deserved such treatment.

A question to which he never found an answer to his end.

Baba Jagmohan Giri applying ash on his body after taking a dip in the river

Baba Jagmohan Giri applying ash on his body after taking a dip in the river