At Kedar Ghat a priest used to perform a daily prayer to Lord Shiva. One day he became ill and couldn't perform the prayer, telling Lord Shiva, "You will have to come yourself."
"So Lord Shiva rose from the water in front of the ghat," Prakash says.
Further down the river, a ghat is abandoned. "That's Narad ghat," says Prakash. "The story is that women who bathe there will fight with their husbands, so no one bathes there."
Heavy black smoke rises from Harish Chandra and Manikarnika ghats. Ashes and flowers dot the waves. These are the burning ghats, where relatives bring their loved ones to be cremated. According to Hindu legend, those who are cremated in Varanasi will achieve enlightenment and be free of the cycle of death and rebirth. Nearly 300 bodies are cremated every day.
"This is the best city to die in," Prakash says, smiling, as he looks at the sun rising over the ghats. The bathers are out in full force. Some lather up, while others dance and sing in the water. In the narrow alleys behind them, the city of Varanasi is just waking up.