The pre-dawn boat trip on the Ganges is an obvious once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we do not neglect. The most difficult part is not waking up on time, since the ancient energy of Varanasi fills us with restless wonder; nay, the hardest thing is enjoying the experience without a bulking camera stuck between my face and the awesome spectacle surrounding me.
But the light excites, and I canâ€™t help but try to capture it, cruising through roll after roll on my bulky Nikon, while Tay takes digital command, snapping the shots you see here. (For a wider angle, run your mouse over Erik Olsen’s stunning panorama of the same scene).
The vista goes on and on, an ever-changing pastel filter draped across the glassy Ganga, across whose surface glide scores of slow-moving boats. The haze of dust, smoke, and pollution keeps the direct rays of sun at bay for awhile until, finally, they pierce through it, gold on the ghats. Bobbing heads of swimmers shout â€œMahadev!â€ to each other, in the sheer joy of their worship, a cry that is answered by the bathers on the shallow steps; they are declaring their devotion to Lord Shiva, and Tay and I declare ours by clicking away and watching the world around us.