THE BATHERS

Photos and words by Spela Skulj

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The river Ganges is essential to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on its waters for their daily needs. It is also a sacred river to the Hindus. They believe the waters of the Ganges hold a purifying power – they are not only capable of removing the physical dirt, but also the symbolic dirt. It is their common belief that bathing in the river washes away the sins of a lifetime.

Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in India, and hundreds of Hindus come to bathe there every day. Every Hindu should come at least once in their lifetime to bathe in the river at the Ghats – the stairs leading to the river – that spread on the river banks.

During the months of May and June, just before the rainy season, a wave of heat moves through North India. In certain parts, the temperature rises up to 50 degrees Celsius. It is the hottest time in this part of the world and the temperature is difficult to endure even for the people who live there.

In this period of time the Ghats start to play a different role. This is where the people of Varanasi and the nearby cities come to bathe and chill in the soothing waters of the sacred river every day. The Ghats become the beach and the holy river Ganges a cool sea.

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Spela Skulj, b. 1982 in Slovenia. Since her degree in Cultural Studies she has been working in the field of culture and art. Skulj is mostly interested in interpersonal relationships, intimacy and personal stories that can be read more widely and carry the elements of universality. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions and published in different newspapers and magazines.

In 2011 she left Slovenia to China where for a year she was working on a series of short documentaries about personal lives in China. Currently she is discovering new images around Asia.

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