The ghats are the stone steps, leading down to the River Ganges, in the ancient city of Varanasi.

They are the scenes of all life in the city. Babies are blessed and washed on the lower steps, dunked quickly underwater, as younger children play, splashing each other while their parents shout at them. Washer women straddle flat stone rocks in the shallows, beating the dirt out of clothes, hanging the cleaned goods on huge hairy rope lines between sticks, or laying them flat on the tapered brickwork away from the river. All ages, from old, long bearded men, to younger weakly moustached youths wash and bathe, soaping up before submerging themselves off the steps. Holy men lead prayers in the shade of old towered mansions. The cycle completes itself at the far ends of the river, as funeral pyres burn for hours before the ashes are lowered into the river, to be swept downstream.

As you walk along, it becomes apparent that four hundred years in the past, or four hundred years in the future, the same scenes were and will be going on.

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