The River Ganges in Varanasi is lined by over 100 ghats, or sections of the stone platforms along the riverfront. The ghats are used for religious services, as entry points for bathing in the river, or for cremation.
The whole city literally spills into the river down a series of steep steps; towers of temples spike the sky, and observing the sheer joy of the people splashing in the water is a wonderful way to start the day.
Just in case you’re considering coming to Varanasi to take a dip in the Ganges and go straight to Heaven, consider this:
The Ganges river has been considered one of the dirtiest rivers in the world.The extreme pollution of the Ganges affects 400 million people who live close to the river.The river waters start getting polluted right at the source. … As it flows through highly populous areas the Ganges collects large amounts of human pollutants, e.g., Schistosoma mansoni and faecal coliforms, and drinking and bathing in its waters therefore carries a high risk of infection. While proposals have been made for remediating this condition, little progress has been achieved. Recently,[when?] the World Bank agreed to loan India US$1 billion over the next five years to clean up the Ganges.
Along the 4 miles (6.4 kilometres) stretch of terraced bathing ghats in the holy city of Varanasi, the water of the Ganges is a “brown soup of excrement and industrial effluents.” The water there contains 60,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 ml, 120 times the official limit of 500 faecal coliforms/100ml that is not considered safe for bathing.
Here are some scenes from the riverfront – look, but don’t leap:
I make a new friend. I went for walks along the ghats in the morning from about 6:30 to 10:00 am while the heat was still bearable. This black goat ambled over to me as I was relaxing on the steps, and began to lick the salty sweat off my shirt. It then decided to snuggle next to me, and we just hung out for a while, watching the panaorama.
Ghat steps and painted advertisements