Varanasi, the Indian metropolis the place individuals search loss of life

(Credit score: Far Out / Atharva Tulsi / Santosh Verma Jr Korpa)


Alongside the financial institution of the river Ganges, in northern India, lies the congested and overpopulated metropolis of loss of life, penance, liberation and spiritualism. Varanasi (pronounced Banaras regionally) is a land of miracles, legends, mysticism and insanity the place individuals typically go to to die. This historic metropolis, additionally referred to as Kashi, has cemented its legacy in varied epics and folks tales and attained non secular glory. 

The holiest metropolis within the nation, individuals typically traverse miles to atone for his or her sins. Legend says that the 5 protagonist brothers from the Indian epic, Mahabharata journeyed to Kashi after their triumph on the Kurukshetra warfare to atone for the loss of life and destruction brought on by their wartime fury. The concept of in search of moksha (liberation) has, ever since, been an integral a part of journeying via Varanasi. Based on varied Hindu scriptures, dying in Varanasi is a blessing because the holy water of the Ganges, now contaminated with industrial waste and smells of pure filth, will assist break the cycle of rebirth and permit the useless to achieve liberation. 

Famously, Varanasi is widely known for the abundance of ‘ghats’. Ghats normally seek advice from the steps close to the riverfront that result in the bottom of the river. With 88 ghats in existence, most of them serve ritualistic or bathing functions. Nonetheless, the 2 hottest ghats within the metropolis, Manikarnika and Harishchandra, completely function cremation grounds the place flames engulf the air all day and evening because the funeral pyre by no means ceases to burn. Throughout oral folks tales, varied legends associated to Lord Shiva have been related to the ghats, apart from real-life historical past that enshrouds town. 

Manikarnika, particularly, has been the focus of bizarre and macabre loss of life tourism. Vacationers from all throughout the globe flock right here to expertise the weird and engaging cremation rituals. Whereas pictures isn’t permitted, most individuals stand on the sides of their boats to witness the routine ceremony. Stacks of wooden adorn the ghats because the useless physique is dipped within the water after which burned on the pyre. 

Unsurprisingly, varied individuals come to die in Kashi and reside within the notorious Mumukshu Bhavan. In Sanskrit, Mumukshu roughly interprets to these trying to find liberation, salvation and penance. These individuals search shelter in these lodges for an indefinite interval till they die. They like to lodge those that are determined to go away their lonely existence. Nonetheless, the Mumukshu Bhavan doesn’t allow individuals under 60 to reside inside these partitions. The individuals spend their days chanting prayers and hymns and ready patiently to embrace loss of life. They now not concern loss of life however find yourself celebrating it.

(Credit score: Chirag Ashish Sarkar)

This holy metropolis can also be celebrated for being the hub of the holy males of the nation who assemble to hunt blessings from Lord Vishwanath (one other identify for Shiva) from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Vacationers and Kashivashis (individuals of Varanasi) alike, the Dashashwamedh Ghat turns into a major supply of attraction for its night prayers, additionally referred to as ‘aarti’. The good hues of golden hearth and the sound of bells and percussion fills town air with an odd sense of spirituality. And it’s on this ghat that a number of the fascinating ascetics from the nation may be seen. The ghats of Varanasi are a cesspool of such holy males who belong to varied sects and cults and have completely different names, together with ‘Aghori’, ‘sanyasi marvadi’, ‘Shaiva sadhu’, ‘Vaishnava sadhu’ and extra. Weird and oddly enigmatic, they’re dwelling epitomes of salvation, detachment and transcendentalism. 

Probably the most enchanting of all these ascetics are the aghoris, identified for his or her peculiar existence. From having intercourse with useless our bodies that they think about to be purer in comparison with these alive to feeding on human flesh and meditating on corpses, the aghoris additionally use the human oil from funeral pyres for medicinal functions and slather their bare our bodies with ashes. Whereas these aghoris primarily reside in distant forests, they’re seen completely on the ghats of Varanasi, absorbed of their mysterious hymns and prayers. Typically related to darkish magic, the surrealism surrounding the aghoris works solely in tandem with the other-worldly, ethereal environment of town whose air smells of loss of life, sandalwood and piety. 

One of the well-liked vacationer locations within the nation with maybe the very best international footfall, Varanasi is the hub of loss of life tourism. Nestled throughout the pillars of sanctity, non secular awakening and rituals, town, steeped in legends and myths, has a sinister and paradoxical odor of darkness, woeful despair and salvation.  

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(Credit score: Chirag Ashish Sarkar)

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