Burning dead bodies at the city of Varanasi

The city of Varanasi or Banaras (or Kashi) as most Indians know it, is one of the holiest cities of India. It is here you will find Hinduism in its raw form. Many foreign tourists visit Banaras in large numbers to seek of spirituality. I have spent large parts of my childhood growing up in Banaras. I have seen tourists come to this place from all over India and the world. Indians come here to bathe in the holy river Ganges while foreign tourists come here to get to know about the Hindu religion. Some foreign tourists come here just to consume marijuana, one of the few places in India where you can drink bhang lassi (shake) on the streets.

If you walk on the ghats of Banaras, you simply cannot escape seeing burning pyres. These pyres are bodies of the departed. It is said that if a Hindu is cremated in Banaras, the person attains moksha or liberation from the recycle of birth.

If you do happen to be visiting Banaras, it will change the way you look at life. The majority of the cremation takes place at Manikarnika Ghat. You will see that bodies are burnt here round the clock all round the year. The ashes and remains are the collected and dispersed into the Ganges. Obviously this has damaged the river and now there is a drive to clean the river.

Some of the things will even shock you. I remember taking a walk on one of these ghats with my father and saw one man hitting the head of a dead person so that it would burn. Mind you, this is not the norm and it’s a one-off but the scene was so off putting that I still remember to this day. I do hope you do not have to witness something like this.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the scenes of burning dead bodies (Hindu cremation) at Manikarnika Ghat and this exactly what you will see if you do happen to visit Banaras. You will see something like this only in India and Nepal. Book your trip to Banaras here!

Hindu Cremation in Banaras: Photo by Ben Beiske

Can you see the smoke: Photo by Irene Turner

Manikarnika Burning Ghat, Varanasi India: Photo by Lyle Vincent

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