Excerpts from

Banaras City of Light by Diana L. Eck

. . . There is little in the world to compare with the splendour of Banaras, seen from the river at dawn . . . which Hindus call Kashi – the Luminous, the City of Light. Long flights of stone steps called ghats, reaching like roots into the river, bring thousands of worshipers down to the river to bathe at dawn. In the narrow lanes at the top of these steps moves the unceasing earthly drama of life and death, which Hindus call samsara. But here, from the perspective of the river, there is a vision of transcendence and liberation, which Hindus call moksha. 

The river front reveals the sources of Kashi’s ancient reputation as the sacred city of the Hindus . . . Along the river there are seventy bathing ghats . . . some are neighborhood ghats, while others are crowded . . . Also along the river are dozens of temples . . . most of them dedicated to Lord Shiva . . . Along with the temples are the ashrams . . . They continue a tradition of spiritual education for which Kashi has long been famous. At dawn, students of all ages practice yogic exercises, breath control, or meditational disciplines on the steps by the river.

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