Located at the intersection of the Ganges and Varuna rivers, Varanasi is India's holiest city. While Buddhists and Jains all regard the city as sacred, the belief in the redemptive powers of the Ganges river makes Varanasi central to Hinduism.
Every morning and evening Hindu priests perform an Aarti ceremony on the banks of the river as an act of worship to the sacred Ganges.
Because cows are considered sacred to Hindus, and because Varanasi is a sacred Hindu city, there are cows everywhere. They have complete right of way and seem to wander the streets blissfully aware of their supreme status.
Settled over 3000 years ago, Varanasi is also believed to be the oldest city in India. Like any ancient Indian city it is filled with tight alleys, great colors, and millions of people.
The contrasts between the ancient and modern worlds are stark. One moment you can be walking down a 2000 year old alley filled with cows and chai vendors, and the next you can be dodging speeding Tuk Tuks - the ubiquitous three wheeled motorized rickshaw that terrorize Indian roads.
All things in Varanasi eventually come back to the Ganges. Transport, daily rituals, and funerals all draw millions of people to the river.
As much fun as Varanasi was, it was made even more enjoyable through the presence of three extraordinary photographers - Gavin Gough, Steve Gluskoter, and Lesley Fisher. Click through to their sites for some truly beautiful images.