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.

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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 Banaras
Hindu Cremation in Banaras: Photo by Ben Beiske
Can you see the smoke: Photo by Irene Turner
Manikarnika Burning Ghat, Varanasi India
Manikarnika Burning Ghat, Varanasi India: Photo by Lyle Vincent

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20 thoughts on “Burning dead bodies at the city of Varanasi”

  1. Hi Shalu Ji,

    It looks really bad when you are going to a spiritual visit or going to pray at temple, we have to see kriya karm of the departed people, God bless them but it looks very bad.

    Also the incident you described about hitting the head of a dead person. But it is really a part of hindu kriya karm system but here in my region it is done when body is fully burnt just to break the skull.

    By the way Varanasi is described as holly city and it needs development and new rules.

    • Hello Raj
      I think the manner in which it was done did not seem appropriate to me at that time. I understand about the pollution issues in Varanasi. Lets hope the clean the Ganga drive by Modi will be bear some fruit.
      Thanks for you comment.

  2. The total procedure of doing last rites of dead bodies at Varanasi is pathetic, gross and distasteful. My uncle died at Varanasi while traveling and his family had a torrid time doing his last rites there.

    In Varanasi death is actually a publicity stunt to promote tourism. Many photographers flock in to take photographs of such last rites without even taking permission from the relatives.

    The Electric crematorium is faulty and you are forced to go to burn the bodies in wood.

    The “Doms” are always hurrying to get the bodies burned fast and they do gruesome acts like the one you saw to get the bodies burned fast.

    There is a saying that if you die at Varanasi you go straight to heaven. I feel the dead are treated in the worst possible manner at Varanasi and such ill treatment is actually branded in a tactful manner.

    • I know what you mean about the Doms trying to get the body cremated as soon as possible. Sometimes it makes you think. Varanasi as I remember used to be a nice place but currently it is in bad shape.

  3. I am really shocked to see and read all this. Performing the last rites of the dead ones, in this way is something one couldn’t imagine except the ones living in Varanasi and doing all this.

  4. interesting post..this website has great information about indian tourism.You can get all information about india this website.How to spend holidays,where to stay,etc information is provided

  5. Shalu jee ,it was interesting to read the details about Manikarnika ghat and images are hard hitting.Often on the way from New Delhi to Darbhanag i see foreign tourists getting down at Banaras in large numbers.Banaras is perhaps the mirror of hindu philosophy..

  6. Hello, Shallu Mam,
    Nice to see once again. You are really a great mentor. As you describe India as whole in very well manner. This incident was quite horrible. your point of view is great and motivates us. I love to read this blog.
    Have a great day.

  7. That is interesting that being cremated in this particular place would break the cycle of reincarnation. Is this something that people of the Hindu religion desire? I know little of this religion, but I thought that you were supposed to be reborn after each life in order to learn and experience other ways of living.

  8. Oh wow, that type of cremation service would be quite fascinating to go to. I’m guessing it’s something that some people in the United States would do as well. According to my friend it’s what his father requested from his family that they do that to him. That’s why my friend has been in a hurry of finding a budget cremations service.

  9. Oh I cant see this mam. I really dont like this type of cremation and please dont share this type of articles.
    Thank you
    Lola A. Kyles


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