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The great river banks at Benaras (Varanasi), built high with eighteenth and nineteenth-century pavilions and palaces, temples and terraces, are lined with an endless chain of stone steps - the ghats - progressing along the whole of the waterfront, altering in appearance with the dramatic seasonal fluctuations of the river level. Each of the hundred ghats, big and small occupies its own special place in the religious geography of the city. Some have crumbled over the years; others continue to thrive, with early-morning bathers, brahmin priests offering puja, and people practicing meditation and yoga. Hindus regard the Ganges as amrita, the elixir of life, which brings purity to the living and salvation to the dead; skeptical outsiders tend to focus on all-persuasive and extreme lack of hygiene. Ashes to the dead, emissions from open drains and the leftovers from religious rites float by the devout as they go about their bathing and ceremonial cleansing.

This is a scene from Babua Pandey Ghat or Dhobi (laundryman’s) Ghat, used purely for the washing of clothing and could be called the local laundry. Clothes are still rhythmically pulverized in the pursuit of purity. Here are some of the ‘purified’ clothes drying on criss-crossing clothelines, (I used one such line for perspective) while activity goes on, in the BG....

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Additional Photos by Angshuman Chatterjee (Angshu) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7851 W: 324 N: 16060] (56760)
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