From India's Hindu Center to Heart of Darkness In the third of a five-part series on the Ganges, Philip Reeves visits Varanasi, one of the holiest cities in Hinduism, where religion and domestic life coexist. Then he travels to crime-plagued Bihar, one of India's poorest states.

From India's Hindu Center to Heart of Darkness

From India's Hindu Center to Heart of Darkness

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The third report in a five-part series

Devout Hindus bathe in the waters of the Ganges at Varanasi, one of the Hindu faith's holiest cities. Heathcliff O'Malley/Telegraph Media Group hide caption

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Heathcliff O'Malley/Telegraph Media Group

Devout Hindus bathe in the waters of the Ganges at Varanasi, one of the Hindu faith's holiest cities.

Heathcliff O'Malley/Telegraph Media Group

Eight out of 10 Indians are Hindus, for whom the Ganges is a holy river. And the city of Varanasi, on the river's banks, is the religious capital of the Hindu faith. On any given day in Varanasi, thousands of pilgrims bathe in the river. Immersed, they pray, meditate and feel the power of nature.

Religion and domestic life coexist on the banks of the Ganges, as women wash clothes and children splash and play. Young girls selling candles to tourists are a reminder that India still has at least 35 million child laborers, according to UNICEF.

Farther down the river, the sanctity of Varanasi gives way to crime, corruption and caste prejudice in Bihar, one of the poorest states of India.

The nation's economic boom has largely passed over Bihar, which lacks the necessary infrastructure to benefit from favorable interest rates and investment. In the absence of jobs, some young people turn to crime; gangs that extort and kill plague Bihar.