b'The Mother GangesI make my way to the sacred river among a stream of pilgrims. According to Hinduism, the faithful must come here at least once in their lifetimes to rinse away their sins. Families also bring the corpses of their loved ones to the funeral pyres at the cremation ghats. Fires burn day and night all year round, and the ashes of the dead are scattered in the waters to liberate the soul from the cycle of life and death.When I finally reach the edge of the ghats, a deep red glow illuminates the storied river. The water is more than thirty feet above flood level, so all but a fraction of the ghats, or steps, are submerged. Still the young and old, many with symbolic markings on their foreheads, make due with the minimized space. There are so many people doing so many things that are so foreign to me. Some bare-chested men and others fully clothed walk into the Ganges raising their hands in prayer. They set candles and flowers into the water as offerings. They fill the air with chants. Most curious to me are the barbers shaving heads completely bald, an act of cleansing and letting go of ones ego.45'