Varanasi, India: Beyond

Varanasi, India: Beyond

2012, Religion  -   83 Comments
Ratings: 8.46/10 from 202 users.

Varanasi, India: Beyond is an exclusive documentary featuring photographer Joey L. Set in Varanasi, India. The documentary by filmmaker Cale Glendening follows Joey and his assistant Ryan as they complete their latest photo series - Holy Men.

Almost every major religion breeds ascetics; wandering monks who have renounced all earthly possessions, dedicating their lives to the pursuit of spiritual liberation.

Their reality is dictated only by the mind, not material objects. Even death is not a fearsome concept, but a passing from the world of illusion.

Set in the breathtaking backdrop of India, this documentary proves that capturing an amazing portrait isn't just about the latest gear or technique, but truly the subject.

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83 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Evergrowing

    This documentary is 90% about the boys and their trip and only 10% about Varanasi or the culture behind it.

  2. Deborah D

    Having just visited Varanasi and having the pleasure of meeting Raju (one of the guides/interpreters credited in this Doco) who acted as our excellent guide on a tour of several temples in Varanasi, it was great to see many of the places we had visited again. Some of the photography in the Doco is fantastic I think..I agree with some people's criticisms but overall I enjoyed it and found it informative.

    Thanks again Raju..Linda and Deborah from Perth Western Australia

  3. Disha

    I loved the photographs you have clicked on the ghat.

  4. Sukriti Rai

    Nice documentary. ..

  5. francois jobin

    after seeing this very very nice film India will stay in my memories for a long time. im getting old and I need to go feel this place for real

  6. bindesh

    When i had no knowledge about Aghori Sadhus i thought of them as lost minds. Then i came to know it was me in illusion. Aghoris challenge their mind that this visible world is illusion. Everything is made from only one thing i.e. Brahm (singularity). Aghoris have to stop differentiating between a flower and mud or anything else. They have to respect everything. Its a very tough path to follow. Don't attach with anything.

  7. greta se fossi garbo

    have you ever seen a bramin countig money....i have and i also saw the ritual of bed time for their wives..carressing them bringing them shivas night cap...and basically making sure they stayed alive...shovinism at its beautifull...really?

  8. greta se fossi garbo

    nice doc .........but you know what i am sick of boys idiolising men.... get a grip only manhood idiolizes man ,womanhood just get on with live and giving life , get a grip these sadus would shun a woman for being free so make your little movies you are never going to be able to give life....sorry but i am just sick and tired of this polava,,,been there shaged them and quite frankly there is nothingh spiritual about giving up responsibility....

  9. Sheshadri

    Wow! Awesome work guys! I always wonder hows the life of people in Varanasi and you guys showed me in this whole documentary. I really liked and i cant wait to go and explore more. :)

  10. Jansci

    ... Be nice if there were less segments focusing on the filmmakers in this short documentary ..

  11. Dee

    Beautiful picture and wisdom.

  12. Eilie

    I cannot believe how amazing this documentary is. Watching the credits at the end had me in shock that so few people were involved in the making of this documentary because it was so well done that I thought a whole set would have had to be involved. Great job representing the people, culture, and your experiences. I want more from you guys.

  13. mischa

    Is this documentary about Varanasi and their people (interesting!) or a about the travel of three American boys (not so interesting!)?

  14. noboundryman

    Very nicely done, good kids, good photos. Amazing people of india always a pleasure to meet. "Good on ya", for getting out of town. I wish the young people making professional films, especially abroad, would consider "slightly" formalizing their verbal narrative presentation. There is a beauty, and clarity "certainly", in the friendly spontaneous nature of, what I call the (modern "informal" social media style). The cliches, obscure urban euphemisms, repetitious similes, "Like like ya know, like awesome" for example, need to stay on your twitter account, not in the film you work so hard to produce.

    I am suggesting a chance to increase the greatness, and gravitas in your message. Human beings respond to a certain degree of formality, when engaging new experiences, new ideas, new people. It only stands to reason that the general tone, and welcoming atmosphere of the narration, in an ever so slightly formal manner, will make them feel warmly welcomed to the presentation. The piece may contain many disturbing or unfamiliar themes, that will be more easily assimilated with the right tonal delivery. It is a major factor in the training of professional diplomats, and can enhance anyones cultural experience. A peaceful, confident, mildly serious, introduction, and a conversation as if you were speaking to a college English professor, and the most important people in the world.

    An example would be the seemingly ancient, but still highly relevant stylistic presentations, of people like Edward R Murrow, Lowell Thomas, Jaques Cousteau, Walter Cronkite while obviously of another time, and century, they all had a certain dignified, "international" "respectful formality" worthy of individual diplomacy in a world full of hundreds of languages, and thousands of dialects. It was the nature of the age in which they lived. It was a time when crossing oceans, and continents, meeting ancient cultures, was still a serious, and daunting adventure, only for the strong, the wealthy, and the well educated. The superior English speaking, skills, and disciplined communication skills, left you feeling that the presenter, and therefore the message had great gravitas, and a reassuring quality that left you spellbound. Being formal has absolutely nothing to do with snobbery, but every thing to do with communication, respect, and mutual understanding. You deserve to be viewed with respect for your disciplined work, the audience will respond with respect if you give it to them. Nice film.

  15. jack

    anyone knows what is the music playing at the very end of the movie?

    1. Hairy_Marney

      "Help is On the Way" by Tony Anderson

  16. A Mariposa

    While beautifully filmed this is not a good documentary. Is it about sadhus, India, or the guys doing the photo shoots? It's neither here nor there. It would have been better just to make a docu about the sadhus. The photographers are boring docu subjects though they seem like nice enough guys.

    1. Cale Glendening

      I couldn't agree with you more! I wanted it more about the Sadhu's but if the adventure side was much less then it very well could've made us completely irrelevant. I filmed probably 20 photoshoots, but only put in b-roll of a couple. Thank you for taking the time to watch and your honest critique!

  17. Devon Jones

    This was amazing; it felt like all of the best parts of a documentary mixed with all the best parts of what you would see from the point of view of friends travelling together.

  18. Raj Kamal Khare

    Beautiful docuementary. I am indian but never been to Varanasi. One day I would definitely go.
    Nice effort. Loved it.

  19. Drew Cunningham

    Very stylized artificial images which I think totally contradicts what it means to be a Sadhu . Sadhus renounce the material world yet these images couldn't be more "material" thus I am not a big fan of the work. or the filming of the work...would rather see a more documentary approach to the subject matter.....having the elderly renunciate rowing the boat down the river was so contrived it was almost embarrassing.....don't get me wrong the images are sharp and well lit but how many Sadhus really participate in fashion shoots....

    1. Rob

      uhhhh the ones that are in fashion shoots are probably the ones that are going to be on a documentary? hahaha

  20. melly666

    Have been to Varanessi a few times over te course of 20 years, magical place. Brilliant photography guys! Keep it up!

  21. Christine Hewitt

    Guys! You have incredible video and photo skills. Props to you, seriously! But please stop making your movies about you, and start editing to focus on the subjects you are capturing.
    Then in 10 years or something, make a doc about you and all the docs you did.

    1. Drew Cunningham

      couldn't agree more....

    2. Cale Glendening

      This was my #1 priority. Believe me.

  22. Jora

    Thank you for making this film. Really needed to see this today.

  23. Equality balanced

    Beautiful... If whoever feels this is egotistic then they are focusing on something that is rooted in themselves rather then just being the witness and experiencing the beauty of these people... So glad this was made

  24. Shital

    very good one.... liked it a lot!!!

  25. Crna Zora

    realy nice work, thank you

  26. yomutra

    I spent some time in Varanasi a couple years back and you guys captured the soul of the city. The photos were outstanding! You actually brought tears to my eyes from all the memories that came flooding back.

  27. svet

    seriosly guys, what a waste of my time. If you are going to educate people about Varanasi, stick to the subject and not your ego selves....pathetic really!!! Go meditate!

  28. droses

    Beautifully shot and definitely interesting however not as informative as I was hoping. Being Hindu myself, I was a little taken aback by some of the generalizations. Many of the comments made gave the impression that all of these practices apply to Hinduism as a whole. There are so many different types of Hinduism that it would have been nice to know about how this particular group of people differs from the rest as a prelude to the documentary. There were some inaccuracies in the facts however with language barriers and whatnot, it is understandable. But overall, really great to see people taking interest in something so abstract in comparison to their daily lives. And wow you have some guts eating that food. I've never even eaten common street food in India so I am impressed!

    1. MsBrookie

      Did it ever occur to you that you should view this as a non-Hindu opinion of what it is like to visit Benares? I get really annoyed when the locals or the ethnic nationals from any country decide that we Westerners haven't done a good job on interpreting their culture. Well this is how they saw what they encountered and if they missed some pertinent point then make your own video and show us rather than criticize us. Everybody has a point of view. If this one isn't yours then so be it. Do some P/R for your people then.

    2. Tash

      Wow, calm down! Her (constructive) criticism is totally valid. The film *DID* graze over the tip of the iceberg of Hinduism. She never said the documentary wasn't good...she simply pointed out a shortcoming. Any good documentary brings forward a new perspective and opens up some discussion. This documentary did both, so kudos to the film-makers!

    3. oQ

      You should try some of your street food, some of the best in the world! in fact, it is one of the highlight for many travellers.

    4. Cale Glendening

      The film wasn't about Hinduism, it was about 3 friends exploring Sadhus & The Aghori. We left out multiple interviews that were definitely not beneficial but more opinionated. This wasn't a historical or textbook look, that is not what we were doing, but more so showing up & exploring the culture & documenting it. We were very careful to be as genuine to the city, Aghori & culture we witnessed. We aren't historians & it's very important that we didn't try to come off that way, otherwise it would've really been a debate.

  29. Sunil Dominic Selvanayagam

    Loved the shots and how it was filmed... sadly they seemed more interested in promoting their work and skills rather than actually telling the story and history of varanasi..

  30. samuel lyddy

    a beautifully shot documentary however, uninformative and seemingly self indulgent rubbish. I think all this has is wonderful shots yet I wonder what these guys actually learnt as what comes from their mouths seems to be not well read, much like they only took in what they saw and collected varied information from guide books. If one was to make a documentary about a heavily spiritual place such as Varanasi, why wouldn't the documentary bring forth more facts and give the watcher a better understanding rather than surface superficialities. This comes across in the end like a film clip, focussing on the talent behind the shots rather than the knowledge and information.Superficial.

  31. parsalondon

    Dear friends Rumi says:
    O son,burst thy chains and be free! How long wilt thou be a bondsman to silver and gold?
    the pitcher, the eye of the covetous, never becomes full: the oyster-shell is not filled with pearls until it is contented.
    In fact, one of the way to be happy and approach to happiness to release all possess and interest which are tied in our heart. But that doesn't mean we should leave the society and go to the desert! That means we have to tear up all the strings which are connected our heart with this material world and of course, that is very challenging and painful, because of our Ego!!!

  32. Chaitanya Vinnakota

    Amazing words of wisdom from Mahesh!

  33. Susan Ernst

    A FEW YEARS BACK....I also dreamed of going to India,possibly to live. In Mumbia. Bought my passport. Packed my bags...was just ready to purchase my plane ticket. And my older children talked me out of not leaving, America.
    I guess I can't blame them for this. And I still could have possibly just went to visit, but now its probably too late. I have some major issues with my spine, now. So I would not get to see everything like you guys did.
    I too....really injoyed every second, of this video. And felt like I was also right there. Keep up the good work guys. Your photography, ROCKS!

  34. Thanya Ganapathy

    Absolutely loved the entire 44 minutes that i spent watching the video. And the words Mahesh was brilliant. This documentary leaves you feeling calm and peaceful. It's beautiful.
    And each frame is equally breathe taking. Along with the background music and listening to what you have to say from your experiences. I felt I was with you on the trip for those 44 mins. Absolutely Amazing.
    I LOVE IT!
    You guys are amazing, and I hope to see more of your work.
    All the very best! =)

  35. Carolyn McAuley

    I see this documentary,the world they portray,and from Canada,I am envious. I wish this life was available to me as an option...My fantasy is when in school I was given the option of enlightenment as a life style, rather then the traditional list. This lifestyle of peace and contemplation is compatible to all the yearnings I felt most of my childhood...Thanks for presenting it. It now becomes part of my personal archive that confirms such passion for life without not contrary in every question...I am a this lifestyle available to females...or is my skeleton seen by God,unqualified...?

    1. stevenbhow

      Yes, there plenty of women sadhus (wandering ascetics, though I don't know about Aghori yogini (female yogis) specifically. And not just in India. There are many ashrams as well as Buddhist temples in Canada where you could live a similar lifestyle if you wanted to.

    2. caleglendening

      You are capable of enlightening people wherever you are, every single day. Sexual orientation would only effect women in a couple places in the world. Don't ever think that lifestyle is unattainable or restricted to a location. Start now and enlighten people every day.

      - Cale

  36. sknb

    This is the documentary my boyfriend set out to make in 2003. He collected many, many hours of documentary from around India. When he returned the professor who was to help him make it into a documentary was found dead. The hours of footage sit in the apartment, a lost dream, gathering dust. The Kali mask stares down at me as I write this....

    1. idealpointer

      don't let your dream die!

    2. Pacha

      Perhaps he should have smoked smoking so much dope and just got on with it

    3. caleglendening

      That is absolutely awful. Does he not have the technology or tools to edit the material? Would love to see the footage he obtained.

      - Cale

  37. Borner X

    Not much to say. Last minutes were more than enough.
    Whatever we think, feel or make ourselves to do, we have to know, we are one.

  38. capriciouz

    Great documentary. Very well done in all respects.

  39. Dr_Babu

    Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities of the world. I am glad they presented what it is and no satirical or funny commentary. they saw with western eyes what the life is is in that eastern city without bias. This is what needs to be done. Faith is one of the oldest rituals of life. Indians have their faith and others have their own, we need to respect that basic fact.

  40. Dhiraj Thapa

    awsome guys good work , at least u guys try to under stand what is hindus about ......Never End Peace And Love........jay sumbo

  41. Dhiraj Thapa

    awsome guys at least u try to understand hindus
    Never End Peace And Love , good work

  42. jaidip koodali

    you can say one thing about Benares,and,in the same breath say the exact opposite and both would be true

  43. yakketiyak

    Well I was disappointed. More than a doc about varanasi or the saddhus, its a doc about 3 white boys go to india..
    Its all "wow, thats amazing..." and shows very little insight about hinduism or even about saddhus.
    Real saddhus would not allow themselves to be filmed, the ones filmed were the ones who are (to quote an indian friend who I met in varanasi) the tv saddhus.
    Didn't film the naked ones, didn't even include the fact that smoking of the sacred weed is an integral part of their religious observance.
    Yankees need to get out more.

  44. steven dolci

    I really love this film it's beautiful

  45. Anurag Singh Bewaki

    yes the city has its own aura and it can be felt only when u live there and be the part of that aura... its aura is very dynamic in nature though city has never been destroyed till now after its existence...really a very good documentary...i thanx god all mighty that he gave me the chance to be called banarasi.... har har mahadev

  46. Friso Woudstra

    Great documentary indeed! One needs no particular interest in the subject in order to appriciate the great composition of the visual material. Furthermore, I liked the vision of the artist on how to make a good portrait of a person.

  47. Chandra Sekhar

    One of the very good documentaries i have seen... will have a copy in my records.


    Swimming in that polluted river doesn't seem wise

    1. oQ

      Makes me wonder how come millions have swam and survived....except the already dead.

    2. caleglendening

      That's why I didn't get in. ; )

  49. brianrose87

    the Bhagavad Gita 2:71-72: "They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of "I", "me" and "mine" to be united with the Lord. This is the supreme state. Attain to this, and pass from death to immortality."

    It would seem that Sadhu's take this passage to its literal end point for the prospect of experiencing emptiness. Emptiness, in Eastern traditions, refers to a state of non-resistance, non-judgement, and non-attachment.

    Its not about negating these concepts, but of forgoing their very existence. To negate an attachment is to empower its existence in the mind. Move beyond the very construct of attachment, and liberation fills the void. The mystics of Western religions refer to this liberation as God, which makes God an experience as opposed to a literal being.

    I itch to know whether such a mental state exists, yet the very act of desiring to achieve such a state is an attachment. In seeking, or desiring, enlightenment, one can never attain enlightenment. Enlightenment is the absence of desire, thus the Eastern principle of emptiness.

    1. Friso Woudstra

      Good show! Very well written. I know that within Buddhism the concept of desire is a bit more complicated then most people say. One needs disere in order to become enlightened, so it is adviced to desire wisely. I myself don't think the human mind has any function (even desire) that has no function at all. For instance; competention can be a part of the joy of play, anger can be helpfull for reminding us of living without attention to what's really important.

    2. brianrose87

      Well said.

      I'll begin with a quote that reaffirms your point, as my words are not nearly as eloquent as others:

      "The search for a spiritual path is born out of suffering. It does not start with lights and ecstasy, but with the hard tacks of pain, dissapointment, and confusion. For suffering to give birth to a genuine spiritual search it has to trigger an inner realization, a perception which pierces through the facile complacency of our usual encounter with the world to glimpse the insecurity perpetually gaping underfoot. When this insight dawns, even if only momentarily, it overturns accustomed goals and values, mocks our routine preoccupations, leaves old enjoyments stubbornly unsatisfying.

      We try to deny our vision and smother our doubts, but the flame of inquiry, once lit, continues to burn, and if we do not let ourselves be swept away by superficial readjustments, eventually the original glimmering of insight will flare up again. It is precisely at this moment, with all escape routes blocked, that we are ready to seek a way to bring our disquietude to an end. No longer can we continue to drift complacently through life, driven blindly by our hunger for sense pleasures and by the pressure of prevailing social norms. A deeper reality beckons us, and until we arrive at our destination we cannot rest content"

      -Bikkhu Bodhi

      Buddhism, of course, could not fully explain the functional need for the ego because evolution was first described 2400 years later. As you said, every aspect of the human mind has a function. Collectively, every function serves a single goal, reproductive success with a healthy mate.

      There is often a stark difference between our minds evolutionary drive to stay in the gene pool, and a life of bliss. We evolved to pass on our genes, not to be constantly satisfied and content. In fact, we evolved to NOT be constantly satisfied and content; it is dissatisfaction and discontent that is a strong driver of the will for many humans.

      Evolution didn't equip us with the tools to be PERMANENTLY happy, it equipped us to be TEMPORARILY satisfied. Every high leads to another low, a night of social highs is followed by a week of loneliness, and most people assume this is simply how life works.

      Genuinely try spending 10 hours alone in a room. No TV, no phone, no books, no art, no internet, no stimulus of any kind. I strongly recommend attempting this to everyone because it is guaranteed to give critical insight into how insecure we all are; without constant distraction our muddled minds become frustrated, bored, restless, and listless. After 7 hours your mind will be screaming for you to give up and just "Do something already".

      Humans seem to be unique in that we have the ability to recognize ego, illusion, ignorance, Mara, Satan (whatever terminology you prefer) for what it is, and by seeing, you can separate "I" from "me". You will still feel sorrow, boredom, pain, and disappointment, but you will not identify with them. Once that separation is felt for the first time... I don't know words that can describe the abundant sensation of peace, a feeling of lightness, space, buzzing, and warmth; a feeling that I hadn't known existed until it had been accidentally stumbled into. Once experienced for the first time there is no "unknowing" the experience.

    3. oQ

      One of the key action is that every time one has an opinion about someone else, one sees the reflection of what that opinion is in one self.
      It helps drop negative/positive opinions about others and see that we are every one in different degrees of who we think they are.
      Then the i becomes the mirror in all situation, not good not bad, just a reflection of the activity of our mind.

    4. brianrose87


      Everyone should consider your advice. I cannot say it is true for everyone, but I have found it to be true for myself.

      Our reactions, thoughts, and feelings about others are a reflection of the lens through which we interpret the world. Every person has a unique lens, but I've never met anyone who does not see the world through a veil (this includes myself). Some people are looking through a particularly thick veil, others a more translucent one.

      The distortions our lenses place upon the world become our emotions (in a metaphorical, not literal, sense).

      In my own life I have found that most quarrels I have are rooted in my own minds distortion of another persons actions or words. That distortion is usually a reflection of my own insecurities or past experiences. By realizing my anger, jealousy, or frustration with others is rooted not in them, but in myself, my relations and my understanding are improved.

    5. simonj1970

      Have you read Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now, Brian? I always found the Eastern teachers too impenetrable, but Tolle lays it out plain and simple for a Western mind. Maybe simple is the wrong word, but he makes a lot of sense to "me". Adyashanti and Ram Dass are also worth checking out, there's lots of stuff on YouTube.

  50. reda neggaz

    Outstanding, great Doc, really enjoy it.
    and the ending statements by the sadhu is just awesome, left me speechless

  51. 100622

    Excellent doc. Enlightening. Made me feel good. Thank you.

  52. Arcot Murali

    Amazing documentary. In simple terms trying reveal the truth about life and death.

  53. AntiTheist666

    Excellent doc. Short and sweet, beautifully shot and with a good soundtrack, highly recommended.

  54. Apeiros Sophos

    Impressive for such a small crew. I certainly had no problem fully immersing myself in this film and enjoyed it greatly.

    Interesting though that the aghori being interviewed failed to mention their acceptance of murder.

  55. stevenbhow

    I really enjoyed this one. Thanks for posting it.

  56. oQ

    They succeed in making you feel like you are there.
    Very very beautiful photography and cinematography.
    I like how they go about approaching people and it pays off.
    To be able to see this doc for free shows that the journey was the goal and the reward is shared by many, us included.
    Thank you.

    1. caleglendening

      My goal is simple. Give people a voice who may not have an opportunity to ever be heard. We can learn so much from people, regardless what ethnicity, country of residence, religion, or sex. This was a run and gun shoot as not a single thing was set up before hand. We now have a more refined idea of how to proceed with more episodes. Thank you for watching and the kind words.

      - Cale

    2. oQ

      If you ever want to make one in West Africa and need a French speaking well travelled easy going guide assistant photographer...i'm in!

    3. AntiTheist666

      Hi Cale

      Well done on Varanasi, I loved it. What’s next? May I suggest beautiful north Wales, a land of druids dragons and drunkards and that’s just the women ;-)

  57. Sanjeev Chaube

    good doc, more people need to hear those words of the aghori sadhu magesh

  58. Armageddon_london

    Fantastic...specially the words of pure wisdom by the engineer sadhu..
    great work guys!!

  59. megatron_mcdaniels

    gosh we look cool...