|Photo © Anthony Pond-All Rights Reserved|
However, I would add another important consideration to these four. While Varanasi is the quintessential Hindu city, it also has a sizable Muslim community of almost a third of its approximately one and a half million inhabitants. There has been Muslims in Varanasi for hundreds of years, and they have built their own societies where they live and work with respect for their own rituals and religion.
During my 2014 The Sacred Cities Photo-Expedition-Workshop to Varanasi and Vrindavan, I made it an obligatory stop to schedule a photo shoot at the shrine of the Sufi saint Bahadur Shahid in the outskirts of the city. Its atmosphere was electric with a large number of women in deep trances and imploring the dead saint for favors.
Anthony Pond participated in the photo expedition, and has just produced Entranced; a monochromatic multimedia piece that very accurately depicts what the atmosphere was like whilst we were there. The shrine welcomes Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims who mingle and seek blessings from this Muslim saint, and because of the prevailing religious intensity, some of them go into intense trances.
The trances you will witness in this multimedia piece are caused by the religious fervor of the women involved, who react in the ethereal "presence" of a saint...a syndrome colloquially called hajri. Being in a trance signified the entrance of the deceased saint in the body of the entranced person, to rid it from ailments, from jinns and other undesirable symptoms.
In my own secular (but non medical) view, these “hajri” manifestations such as auditory hallucinations, the paranoid or bizarre delusions, may well be schizophrenia.
Anthony worked for more than two decades in the criminal courts in California as an attorney for the Public Defender’s Office. Now pursuing his passion for travel and photography, he travels repeatedly to South East Asia and India, amongst other places, to capture life, the people and the culture.