Photographer Monidipta Saha is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From his project ‘The Salvation‘. To see Monidipta’s gallery of photographs click on any image.
According to the Hindu religion, the human life is an infinite cycle of birth and death. Every life is a smallest divine part of the supreme almighty i.e. “Bramha” or the sole creative power of the universe. And the reunion of ‘Atma’ i.e. soul of human life with that supremacy is supposed to be the completeness of journey of life. The only means to be free from the continuous cycle of birth and death is the process of salvation or “Moksha”.
With this deepest sacred faith, from different parts of India, thousands of pilgrims including ‘sanyasis’ i.e. Hindu monks come to Varanasi, the ancient sacred and spiritual city of India. The Hindu scripture says that, the one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi, would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth after their cremation. Varanasi’s prominence in Hindu mythology is virtually unrivaled. A city where the past and present, life and death, light and darkness, water and fire co-exists. The city of Varanasi is situated on the west bank of the holiest of all Indian rivers, the Ganga. The Ganga is believed to have flown from heaven to wash away the worldly sins of the human race of mortals. Mark Twain, the American author and litterateur, who was enthralled by the legend and sanctity of Varanasi, once wrote: “Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” To get the freedom from the recycling of life, thousands of elderly, mainly widows comes to this city, spending the rest of their lives at different old age homes with morning prayers and uncounted chanting of praises from day to night. They come here only to surrender themselves to the god with adhered hope that the holiness of the city and streaming water of ‘Ganga’ will convey their aspiration and make them free from the cycle of reincarnation. And they will surely be the part of the divinity leaving behind all of the sufferings from sin and limitations of worldly existence.
A two storied building named “Mukti Bhavan”, in the middle of the city, established in 1958, is dedicated as the sacred temporary home to those praying for Moksha or Salvation. Mr. Bhairav Nath Shukla, the caretaker, and his family live in a section of the building. Some rooms on the ground floor are dedicated to those praying. There is one little room, a waiting room for final departure to the desired holy destination of beatitude, for the people expected to die within 15 days. There is a minimum rent for the accommodation and electricity, which have to be payed by the family member’s of the person dying. So, that those who too yearn salvation get the chance. The holy sounds of the chanting from the morning and evening “Pujas” in this house purifies the ambience everyday which streams of eternal peace to the blinking eyes of those dying. The faith of capitulation to the supremacy with counting the days of last breath; far away from the decade long known smell of home or loving faces, slowly makes the distance closer to the most awaited acme of liberation and finally announces an adieu to the mortal world.
By Monidipta Saha