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The Bodhi, the Banyan & 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 cities trees are scarce. Amongst the trees that are left, most are considered sacred, like the Bodhi (Ficus religiosa) and the Banyan (Ficus benghalensis). The Bodhi and the Banyan are trees that are worshipped and often 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 have 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, stumbled upon, and discovered new trees, in the company of a medium format analogue film camera. I spent a lot of time under those trees, sheltering myself from the heat, reflecting and meeting people.  

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