Benaras

Benaras Introduction - Peter Malakoff
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This movie

presents a visual poem of the

oldest still living city in the world-

Benaras.

 

 

 

Beginning with the fire of the rising sun

and ending with the fire of cremation,

it presents images of the Ganges River,

the people who live and worship there

and the famous and ancient cremation grounds

of

Manikarnika Ghat.

Almost any time of the day or night,

if I walked the alleys and small lanes that led down to the cremation grounds at Manikarnika,

a procession of 5-10 men would be heard and seen,

winding through the crooked alleys,

past the small booths of myriads of shops,

threading their way amongst the press of people crowding the lanes,

carrying a corpse on their shoulders.

 

They were bringing the body to Manikarnika Ghat

on the banks of the Ganges.

As they walked, they chanted loudly,

reminding the living of that part of life called death.

Their chant was a call and response mantra.

 

The first part of the group would call out,

"Sub ki Yahi Gati Hai" (This is the fate of all),

which would then be immediately answered by

"Rama Nama Satya Hai" (Only the name of God is Truth).

They would chant these rhythmed words again and again

as they wound their way down towards the river.

 

Finally,

the funeral procession came out of the close press of the alleys

where the view opened out dramatically to the river

and they began to descend the final stone steps

leading down to the Ganges

and the cremation ground itself.

At the bottom of these steps,

they would bathe the corpse

one last time in the holy river,

purposefully splashing water into the mouth of the deceased

and then lay the body on the steps

to await a pyre for the burning.

The music, "Baba Hanuman", by Krishna Das,

was chosen for its mood, tone and rasa (emotion),

not for its meaning.

 

I am well aware that the translation of the words of this song

as well as the stories and lilas of Hanuman

are not connected with cremation grounds

(like some of the other Gods from the Hindu pantheon).

"Baba Hanuman" begins with the chanting of the words,

"Namah, Namah, Namah" (I bow down, I bow down, I bow down)

and ends with the name of God- "Ram".

Like a river flowing into the ocean

and losing its distinction there,

any unique quality of any particular idea of God

eventually

is ultimately found in the sea

of a great unknowable and undefinable mystery

and this mystery could be said to begin with devotion

and end with what is called

"God". 

That is the poetic mood and intention of this movie

and the music I selected for it:

In the midst of life, we are all burning

and in that sacrifice of self and all,

is God.

I beg the pardon of anyone who considers my musical selection inappropriate.

I simply loved the mood and feeling

or the "uneducated" meaning of the piece.

It was primarily for its 'rasa' and feeling, to a Westerner,

that I selected it.

 

Benaras - Manikarnika Movie