Several posts to come about my recent trip to Varanasi (also known as Benaras, Kasi), which is a Hindu holy city on the banks of river Ganges.
Varanasi is a holy city in India with deep roots to the Hindu religion and home to god Lord Kasi Viswanth. I heard a lot stories about the city all my life (my father graduated from Benaras Hindu University 55 years ago) and finally had to visit the place to immerse the ashes of my mother who passed away couple of months ago. I have to say words can’t describe what you see in places like this… you have to visit it to believe it. I can’t post all my experiences in one blog so I started sharing some of my photos on my Facebook and instagram feeds.
I feel so insignificant in the history of “time” as this city has been through so much of history that what I experienced is a sliver of its existence. I am not here to criticize or suggest anything to be changed… I am just a witness to life as it happens.
In this post I want to cover 2 Ghats (Ghat: Places on River bank where people bathe or access river) of the 80+ that exists in Varanasi. First thing I learned was that the name Varanasi comes from two words — Varun, the river on the south end of town and Assi Ghat (80th Ghat) on the north end of the town… so Varun + Assi = Varanasi over time.. small nugget of knowledge…
The 2 Ghats are Harishchandra Ghat and Manikarnika Ghat. (Complete list of Ghats)
Both these ghats are famous for cremation of bodes on the banks of River Ganges, the holiest river for Hindu religion. It is the ultimate way of leaving behind your physical existence in the world.
This picture is taken from a boat a few hundred feet from the ghat. Those burning fires are of dead bodies and people sitting on steps watching as it happens. There are always a few burning fires on this ghat.
This is a blurry view of Manikarnika Ghat the south most Ghat of Varanasi. This image is blurry.. for a reason. My guide on the boat said it is bad luck to take pictures up close… so I can only take one while we are pulling away… This Ghat has multiple places to burn bodies and it is rumored that they go through 500-600 bodies a day at this place. Myth has it that this place was supposed to have a light all hours of the day by god’s order and it DOES happen. It is a surreal scene to see it in the person. You can read all you want, but it is one of those real life experiences you have to have in person.
So why did I choose to showcase 2 ghats that deal with burning of bodies? First, after experiencing my mother’s death up close I realized how insignificant our trivial pursuits when it all ends. Death is not a bad thing… it is closure of a life cycle… a blessed one for most and you should embrace and celebrate every moment of your living existence. We are all born from the earth and when we die it all goes back to earth… simple isn’t it?
If anyone wants to experience this in person, I will do whatever I can to make it happen… as a paid consultant of course 🙂