The Ganges flows from the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas for 2,500km into the Bay of Bengal at Kolkata with the sacred city of Varanasi, known for its human cremation ceremonies, about halfway.
Why the Ganges? It has long been considered both pure and purifying in Hindu culture and at this juncture in my life, it couldn’t hurt to wash away a few sins....
However, I highly doubt the people who originally considered the river pure had to take the following into account:
According to official standards, water safe for bathing should not contain more than 500 faecal coliforms per 100ml.
Upstream of Varanasi's ghats the river water already contains 60,000 faecal coliforms per 100 ml.
After passing through Varanasi and receiving 32 streams of raw sewage from the city, the concentration of fecal coliforms in the river rises to1.5 million!!
So here I am as close as possible to the beginning of this majestic river in the desperate hope of avoiding as many fecal coliforms as possible at Rishakesh, less than 200km from the source and famous for the ashram the Beatles came to in the sixties.
The "bathing" ritual of cleansing from the Ganges simply involves cupping the water in your hands and pouring it over your head. On the ghats of Rishakesh during a large Hindu prayer ceremony at sunset amongst the chanting and prayer this was a special experience.