Nightly puja at a small shrine along the Ghat in Varanasi, India
Nightly puja at a small shrine along the Ghat in Varanasi, India
Kids playing around a burning body in Varanasi, India : no qualms that they were around dead bodies or ashes, nor was it taboo for them to go bathe right next to the cremating bodies. Ahead of them were a group of Dobis, washing clothes right beside the flowing ashes, another man was brushing his teeth from the ganges river waters while others were dumping the ashes and looking for dead person’s gold jewellery next to him.
The holy day of Vesak or Waisak is celebrated all over the world by Buddhists. This day is also the birthday of Buddha, it represents the three milestones of Lord Buddha’s life, symbolising his birth, death and enlightenment.
It is a great time to visit during Vesak where various buddhist temples come alive with devotees performing their buddhic alms.
Here in Sri Lanka, Colombo, the whole city comes alive, and the main streets in the different colonies will decorate with lights, lanterns and decorate wheels of life that feature Buddha stories of devotion.
Spitting is such a frequent thing in India, everyone spits everywhere and anywhere, even in nice government hotels. From the Rich to the Poor, everyone here spits pretty much openly on the streets and anywhere public except their homes. You can see those horrid red betal nut stains on walls all over, even on hotel walls.
In Meghalaya where English is pretty much the main language, this is one of the walls that often gets that horrid red stains of dried saliva. Urgh
Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, one of the rainest places in the world also inhabits one of secret locations of the tree bridges. If you watched Lord of the Rings, imagine this is what Tolkien’s land of the Ents would be like. Those tree giant creatures definately be walking among us.
Back in the days before climate change, this area experienced a lot of rain almost on a daily basis. Recent years, the cutting down of jungle forests and coal mining has changed the area. This year 2013 saw a series of droughts and water shortages, an unknown phenomena to Megahalaya.
Megahalaya is also famous for its matrilineal culture, call the Khasis, indigenous people. In this state of NorthEast India, women-power rule here, unlike much of the rest of India, known for their recent treatment of women. The Khasis tradition states that all wealth and property goes to the last daughter of the family. The children takes after the woman’s name and belongs to the family. The Khasis women are allowed many husbands and lovers, and there is even a special all female queue in all government offices. You can see why I would want to come visit.
This would be my final spot after a long exhaustive tour around North East of India. Since then has become one of my top favorite places to spend time in the world.
Cherrapunjee, or to be exact, Nongkriat village is what heaven feels like, clean, pristine, quiet and magical, very tolkienesque. For those into the spiritual side of things, you could almost feel that fairies and elves roam this magical place.
A fairly strenuous climb down along with a series of bridge crossings and more climbing up and down stone paved stairs, I finally reached this magical village of Nongkriat surrounded by gorgeous tree bridges that take at least 50 years to grow. Generations are needed to grow these bridges, some tree bridges have claimed to be 500 years old.
I loved staying here at the community village guesthouse, it was a quiet season and practically had the whole area to myself, along with the series of water pools that I was in every day that are just a few minutes away from my guesthouse.
The Khasis people of this area lived closely with nature, their intricate beliefs and their communal with nature can be a great anthropical study. They had the great foresight and patience to grow bridges with trees which are self renewing, as the tree grows and ages, the bridges strengthen and grows along with it.
The locals saw trees are spirit beings and cutting them down for resources were forbidden, rituals and prayers were needed in order to even cut down a tree. Their relationship with the trees were deep and often incorporated into their spiritual beliefs and practise. Prayers were chanted should they need to harvest from certain trees, should a plant or a tree be harmed, their future generations might be harmed. Over time, gradually the Khasis had lost the art of bridge growing when the government built steel bridges across the many rivers and streams surrounding this area. With the introduction of Christianity, many of their relationships with nature were lost, deemed too paganistic for the modern world. Many old living bridges were abandoned and were in disrepair.
Most tourists would spend only a day walking around the village, but I would recommend spending a few days here, doing little treks around the many sub-villages to discover many other root bridges. The local Khasis are great gentle spirits who would be glad share their stories on their ancestors and talk about their knowledge on the root bridges. Come during the harvest season of April and you will be celebrating the Thanksgiving festival with them.
A few years back, a Japanese documentary crew visited the area and along with some tourist interest few years back, the locals became interested in their old traditions and have relearnt the ways of the ancients on growing bridges and have started passing down their traditions to the younger generation.
My images cannot do justice to this magical area, maybe this video would.
If I would show you these images, you would think they are shot in Burma, not Bangladesh, known to be more Indian, than having any ethnic people.
This is a little known area in Bangladesh, where most ethnic hill tribe people live. The tribal people are widely marginalised by the Bangladeshi governments, often badly discriminated against.
The Bangladesh government are rather paranoid about having tourists visiting. I had secret plain cloth policeman following me around, wondering what I was up to, there would permits to be handled, I was not allowed to certain places, not able to get on board of the local passenger ferries. Needed a guide to bring me along, who was’nt a pleasant person to be around, but handy for he spoke the local dialects as well as Bengali.
The tribal people of Chakma and the tripura people are mainly buddhists, being in a pro Muslim Bangladesh is tough for these tribal people who face repression, racism and awful discrimination from the muslim bengalis.
Old Dhaka, Bangladesh feels gritty and incredibly photogenic. Compared to the clean and almost surreal modern Dhaka with new modern buildings, this is what those who never been to Bangladesh would imagine what the country look like
Bangladeshis put great pride in their cyclos, each owner take time to put beautiful decorations on their cyclos. Almost like great art works