FREE BIRD T.V.: Episode 7 (On the Banks of the Ganges)

Considered India’s holiest Hindu site, the Ganges River provides water for over 420 million people. They cook, bathe, pray, and wash away their sins with it, thousands wading into its slow-moving current from the ghats of Varanasi each dawn. (Never mind the 200 million litres of sewage dumped there every day.)

The Ganga, as it’s known in Hindi, is sacred. So sacred that Hindus believe the scattering of their cremated ashes into the river will grant them moksha – liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth. The daily cremation count at the Varanasi burning ghats hovers around 300, with an endless cloud of smoke rising above the woodstacks.

We took two boat rides on the Ganges–one in the early morning and one after dark. Despite spotting the floating carcasses of a cow, a pig, and two dogs, we were captivated watching the men, women, pilgrims, children, and sadhus relish in the daily rituals practiced on these banks for thousands of years.

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