Varanasi, India..Hindu worshippers gather on the banks of the Ganges River at dawn to pray, excersise and bathe. ..Varanasi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and everyday nearly 60,000 Hindus come to take holy baths on the city?s 70 ghats, or piers, that lead to the river. While these devotees consider the ?Mother Ganga? to be forever pure, scientists take a different view. In some parts of Varanasi, fecal chloroform levels, used to measure bacteria in water, have reached an alarming 170 million bacteria per hundred milliliters of water?over 300,000 times WHO standards. While Hindus believe dying in Varanasi will end the cycle of rebirth and send the pious straight to heaven, local doctors point out that a swim in the Ganges may send believers to heaven sooner than planned...All photographs ©2003 Stuart Isett.All rights reserved.