The Bodhi, the Banyan and other stories
Under a tree was the Buddha born
Under a tree, he overcame passion and attained enlightenment
Under two trees did he pass in Nirvana
Verily, the Buddha held trees in great esteem - H.H. The Dalai Lama
In Varanasi, India, like in many other places trees are scarce. Most have been cut for firewood or to make space for constructions. Amongst the trees that are left, some are considered sacred like the Bodhi (Ficus religiosa) and the Banyan (Ficus benghalensis). Is that the reason they haven't been cut? The Bodhi and the Banyan are trees that are worshipped and shelter their own shrines and deities. People give offerings and revere them. Women tie strings of colours to pray for fertility and their families long lives. While they are considered holy, the space surrounding the trees is also used as a multi-functional space. They offer shade, a home and a place to trade, work and meet for many humans and animals. Some of these trees even have a name and a caretaker. I was inspired by the contrast they offer in an urban landscape and the sanctuary of peace they provide. These photos were taken while I was on a 6 months residency in Varanasi. I searched for and discovered new trees, in company of a medium format analogue film camera. I spend a lot of time under them, sheltering myself from the heat and meeting people who shared their dreams and realities.