'Perhaps for all of us there is a country, and within that a single place, in which some essential element of the world is illuminated for the first time .
I had come to Varanasi to understand, if I could, this most ancient of cities; to breathe in the pungent smells of its labyrinthine streets. I wanted to see kites flying on the flat roofs, and buffalos submerged in the muddy river. I hoped for conversations at paan stalls that might illuminate the threads that pass - as if from a weaver's loom - through the interconnected pieces of this Hindu Jerusalem. I yearned for the coolness of its temple stone beneath my feet, the tones of a conch shell blown at dawn.'
Piers Moore Ede first fell in love with Varanasi when he passed through it on his way to Nepal in search of wild honey hunters. In the decade that followed it continued to exert its pull on him, and so he returned to live there, to 'press his ear to its heartbeat' and to discover what it is that makes the spiritual capital of India so unique.
In this intoxicating 'city of 10,000 widows', where funeral pyres smoulder beside the river in which thousands of pilgrims bathe, and holiness and corruption walk side by side, Piers encounters sweet-makers and sadhus, mischievous boatmen and weary bureaucrats, silk weavers and musicians and discovers a remarkable interplay between death and life, light and dark.