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Rituals, prayers, ceremonies, pageantry.

In the holy city of Varanasi, or Banaras as it is also known, I stumbled across a fertility festival. Couples hoping to have a child were immersing themselves, fully-clothed, in the mud-coloured water. They then changed into dry clothes, leaving their wet garments strewn across the steep steps leading down to the well.  On the crammed streets above, boys of all ages were having their heads shaved, Priests bestowed blessings, and women cooked and made offerings. My tuk-tuk driver told me that this festival was an annual event and that couples having difficulty conceiving were advised to attend three times and bathe in the holy well. “After three years the woman will surely bear a child”, he said.

Varanasi is an intense city where every event, every gesture is significant.  I never tired of watching the daily ceremonies on the ghats at dusk, whilst rising at dawn was always rewarded with atmospheric images on the Ganges. Away from the river, a labyrinth of narrow back streets revealed peeling temples and crumbling shrines.

Also in this gallery there are images of Kathakali artists, absorbed in their pre-performance ritual, and photos of pilgrims, shrines and temples in Rajasthan and Kerala.