Varanasi, to me, is a microcosm of India. All that is India is concentrated in one form or another into this melting pot of humanity which befuddles and bemuddles in its strive to find answers to the eternal questions, not least bathing in and drinking from the sacred and critically polluted Ganga Ma.
Nonetheless, for all that is unfathomable, Varanasi is intoxicating viewing. The vertiginous facade that lines the ghats along west bank of the ganges, gazes unmirrored out across a sandy floodplain and up to a distant tree-belt, uninhabited by any living body. But, it is only looking back ghats-ward that you see life play at death; to die in Varanasi is to achieve instant moksha, release from the never-ending cycle of life-death-rebirth and life. People are simply dying to get out of living. And considering the levels of coliform measured in their Mother Ganges, no wonder they give thanks daily to her, for no doubt helping them on their way.
VIDEO: Varanasi Aarti Ganga.
Other posts in this series: Passages from India.