In Varanasi, life on the ghats is a whole other world than that of the streets—one that is oriented primarily around pujas at sunrise and sunset. Life unfolds quietly and undramatically in mini mise-en-scènes along the river bank. In one section, men receive haircuts and shaves from a barber from his makeshift woven mattress barber shop. During the days leading up to Dev Deepavali festival of light for the gods, women offer diyas (candle lamps) to the Ganges River.
The river is considered to be a goddess deity in Hinduism. Devotees bathe their karma away in her muddy waters and send their prayers to their deceased loved ones whose remains are placed into her depths. Believers from all parts of India bring their loved ones here for cremation to guarantee their direct access to nirvana and cleansing of all karma. At the river and throughout the city, countless other devotional and mundane moments reveal themselves in all their color and magic.