Hindu pilgrims bathing in the sacred well of their god Vishnu - N. bank of Ganges, Benares, India
Photographer: Ricalton, James
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic photograph looking into the tank near the Manikarnika Ghat at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, taken by James Ricalton in c. 1903, from The Underwood Travel Library: Stereoscopic Views of India. The Manikarnika kund (tank) which was said to have been dug by Vishnu with his discus and filled with his perspiration from the exertion of creating the world. There are footprints of Vishnu set in a circular marble slab on the ghats. According to legend, Shiva's mani (crest jewel) and his consort Parvati's Karnika (earring) fell into the kund while bathing thus came the name of the ghat. This site is known as a tirtha or ‘crossing place’ where devotees can gain access to the divine and where gods and goddesses can come down to earth. Those who die at Varanasi are considered extremely fortunate and blessed for they attain release from samsara, the unceasing cycle of death and rebirth, and are assured of moksha or enlightenment. This is one of a series of 100 photographs, designed to be viewed through a special binocular viewer, producing a 3D effect. The series was sold together with a book of descriptions and a map to enable the 'traveller' to imagine that he was really touring around India. Stereoscopic cameras, those with two lenses and the ability to take two photographs at the same time, were introduced in the mid 19th century. They cut down exposure time and thus allowed for some movement in the image without blurring as subjects were not required to sit for long periods to produce sharp results.