December 05, May 06 and January/February 07, Uwe Dürigen
travelled through India for a total of three months. He tells
LFI about what he saw, from pilgrims, ascetics and silent rituals
to ecstatic bathing celebrations in the Ganges.
You often go on long journeys to distant lands such as Mongolia,
Tibet or India. What’s the appeal?
I’m not necessarily aiming to travel to farflung places.
What I’m interested in is exciting subject matter. Look
at Sadhu Swami Sajalanand, for example. He has dedicated himself
to the gods, body and soul. That’s incredibly unusual. In
Indian society, ascetics like the Swami are not seen as crazy;
Hindus consider them to be holy. These people take on unimaginable
burdens in the name of their religion.
LFI: As we can
see from your photo reportage – they walk barefoot all the
way to the source of the Ganges in the Himalayas …
… to swim in the icy waters. Some take extreme vows, for
example, to remain silent for years, never to lie down, or to
raise their arms to the heavens continuously.
How did you come into contact with this Swami?
I wanted to do an authentic reportage about the Sadhus’
pilgrimage. This series of photos was to be part of a book
titled ‘Der Himmelsfluss Ganges und seine heiligen Männer’
(The Heavenly River Ganges and its Holy Men), published by terra
magica (www.herbig.at). When I was in the mountain village of
Gangotri I came across ascetics on their way to the source of
the Ganges. It was in an Ashram there that I met the Swami. There
was an immediate chemistry between the two of us, so he agreed
that I accompany him for part of his twelve-year-long, continuous
pilgrimage. He was incredibly trusting towards me and gave me
– and my camera – unlimited access to his religious