Suttee pillar at a Benares burning Ghat, where Hindu widows died on husbands' funeral pyres
Photographer: Ricalton, James
Medium: Photographic print
Stereoscopic photograph looking along a ghat, with a low pillar in the foreground at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, taken by James Ricalton in c. 1903, from The Underwood Travel Library: Stereoscopic Views of India. This view is taken a short distance from the Manikarnika ghat. Ricalton describes the scene in 'India Through the Stereoscope' (1907), "Directly before us here you see a small, low pillar which marks the place where Hindu wives formerly burned themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands. It was once a custom in India for Hindu widows to commit suicide in this manner." 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 and revolutionised photography. 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.