Varanasi sits in the shores of the Ganges, one of the holy rivers of India. It is the most sacred city of Hinduism and some consider it the spiritual capital of the country. According to Hindu tradition, those who die in Varanasi will achieve Moksha, or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. Thousands of pilgrims come everyday to take a bath in the river which, they believe, has the power to wash their sins away.
Morning boat tours along the river are popular among tourist. You can see how people come to the shores to perform ablutions and prayers, while others carry out more mundane activities, like washing their clothes, stretching or just playing.
The Ghats of Varanasi, stone steps leading to the banks of the river, are world-famous. Most of them were built around 1700 AD. There are more than 80 ghats in the city and four of them are used as cremation sites. Approximately, 300 people are cremated daily in Manikarnika Ghat.
After sunset, thousands of people gather around Dashashwamedh Ghat to participate in the evening aarti, a Hindu ritual of worhip.
The Ghats of Varanasi offer a unique experience. There are small children swimming and playing in the river, happily unaware that at the same time, only a couple of meters away, there are families mourning their dead. In very few places you could watch Life and Death interacting in such proximity.