National Geographic : 1963 May
shrouded figures lying at the water's edge, awaiting their turns on the pyre. Early morning is the time to go to the river, when both the living and the dead make their pilgrimages to the sacred water. While mist still rises from the stream and the first peach bloom radiance of dawn touches the figures lining the banks, the scene takes on the soft unreality of a Whistler landscape. Then, as the rays gather strength, the magic disap pears. The Ganges becomes a stream choked with filth, and small boys shatter the last il lusion of sanctity with their profane and joy ful splashings. As I wandered the ghats one morning, a Hindu whose hair still streamed water nodded toward the dark river at our feet. "You really should bathe in the Ganges," he said. "You will find it refreshing as well as spiritually uplifting." I thanked him and walked on, thinking of the filth dumped into the river by the millions of people living along its banks. But to take a photograph I wanted (page 632), I waded into the turbid shallows. Cows Nap on City Streets When I left the river, soaked to the knees by the water of Mother Ganges, an orange clad priest motioned me to him. Gravely he dipped his index finger into a gray paste of sandalwood and pressed it to my forehead, leaving a dime-size tilak to signify my puri fication in the holy river. Atop it he placed a spot of vermilion, to bring me luck. I walked back slowly through streets choked with cyclists, scooter-cabs, horse-drawn ton gas, and the inevitable sacred cows that in Banaras sometimes give the impression of outnumbering people. The Banarasi who was showing me through the town shifted his wad of blood-red betel nut-Banaras is famous for its fine pan, and almost the entire male pop ulation chews this mild narcotic-and nodded toward a family of cows that stood in rapt meditation while traffic tried vainly to get around them. "If anyone in Banaras got independence in 1947," he said, "it was the cows. Since the British left, a law was passed that no cow may be slaughtered in this holy city." But no legislation protects the animals from labor. While some doze the day away, block ing the busiest streets, others pull enormous high-wheeled carts loaded with firewood for the burning ghats, or walk endlessly up and down ramps drawing water. At least one Banaras cow makes a living 638 Blocks of Offices and Apartments Attest the Building Boom in Bombay India's most modern city owes its prosperity in part to expert management by a 131-man Municipal Corporation, which directs prog ress from the onion-domed building at right. Crescent-shaped Marine Drive calls to mind Rio de Janeiro's fashionable Copaca bana Beach. A ring of satellite industrial centers suggests Los Angeles and red double decker buses duplicate Hong Kong's. Drama unfolds in India's movie mill, whose 300 feature films a year rank second in quan tity only to Japan's; the United States is third. Distributed in a dozen languages, In dian films show to audiences in Asia, Africa, the West Indies, and the South Pacific. Here in Bombay, the Hollywood of India, director H. S. Rawail (center) coaches stars Sadhana (right) and Ameeta in Mere Meh boob ("Beloved Mine").