INDIA CROSSING THE RIVER GANGES Varanasi sadhu. In addition to hosting religious festivals; Varanasi is home to a large concentration of sadhus. Sadhus are Hindu monks who renounce most sensual pleasures. Traditionally they live solitary lives; always on the move. They own only what they carry and subsist on alms. They are easily identified by their long beards and dreadlocks which are knotted into huge buns. Some wear robes; while others wear only a loincloth or go completely naked. Shiva sadhus bear the emblems of Shiva: the trident; the two-sided drum; and the necklace of seeds. Some smear their bodies with ash to symbolize Shiva’s role as the Destroyer who reduces everything to dust. On their foreheads; most sadhus paint a tika – a symbol that represents their sect affiliation. In imitation of Shiva; many sadhus use Bhang to boost meditation and achieve transcendental states.Bhang is sold in shops throughout the old city of Varanasi; most are; in fact; nothing more than wooden shacks; though many claim to be official “government bhang shops”. They can be difficult to find as there are no street signs and no cars in the old city- the windingpassages are far too narrow. Furthermore; these passages are sprinkled with staircases; sharp turns; sudden drops; and a tangle of wooden shacks. By day the city is less than charming. Filth is on full display. Cow shit; dog shit; goat pellets; and human excrement lie in piles on the footpaths. Urine collects in pools. Garbage; including rotten food; plastic; paper; and table scraps are piled in the alleys as well. Cows and goats feed on the garbage. Rats feed on the garbage. Dogs and cats feed on the rats. The city has a pungent smell. A combination of shit; urine; decomposing waste; flower garlands; inscence; and smoke from the funeral pyres. The odors have knockdown strength. The city is far more alluring at night. Filth is hidden in darkness as shadows creep to fill every corner; every alley; every turn. It; "s a deep den of darkness punctuated by pools of light. Gangly men in silk shirts huddle on the shadows’ edges, smoking cigarettes – murmuring in low voices. Dogs shriek suddenly in the distance, then trail off to lost passageways. Now and then a splash of bells or the drone of chanting whiffs by on the air…. then silence once again. Bhang-drenched sadhus sit crosslegged by the riverside."