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The first thing travelers will notice is the dirt and filth; the city is loud, polluted and dusty. Set back from the streets, the alleys are filled with garbage, stale puddles and excrement of all kinds. The streets are cramped with vehicles and ubiquitous cows, whose dung is dried and used as fuel here. Thieves and swindlers abound. In this city in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, there is no denying the destitution. However, if one can open ones eyes past the poverty and grime, there are manifold delicacies to take in. Bursting with color and activity, the city teems with life and spirituality.
The Ganges River is the heart of the activity in the city. It is said to be poured down from the heavens by the gods a long time ago. Locals can be seen bathing and swimming in the river, because it is said if you bathe in it on certain days of the year, your soul is cleansed. They use it for every day meditation also. Since the river is holy, people host celebrations and festivals to honor the water. For instance, in one festival the locals light fire to local homemade statues and throw them into the water. Some families also call the river their home, living on wooden house boast which they dock at night. Many of these boats have large piles of nets on them, for the family to fish with. People flow to the Ghats, large staircases, to pray and bathe. Merchants sell nuts and spices on its shores, old men with sinuous muscles row boats down the river.
The action is on the streets. A barber can be seen having set up his shop in an alley way, with a thick wooden chair (resembling more of a torture chair for unfamiliar eyes) placed in front of a small hanging mirror. Men will pass and sit down for a quick shave with a large blade. So many children, who spend the day playing in the street, smile at travelers with large, curious eyes as they pass. Cows and dogs and monkeys roam.
In the evenings, the night bazaars are alive with activity. Old men sit crosslegged on the sides of the streets. Color is everywhere; carvings on the walls, fabrics hanging in loops from the walls.