Varanasi : the holy city of Hindus

I could also title this article “love at first sight”. Varanasi is a particular city. Its energy and spiritual soul captivated me. It is about a few hours from Delhi but the atmosphere is completely different. Let me try to tell a little part of its story.

Varanasi, also called Bénarès, Banaras or Kashi is considered as one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. It is famous in India and all over the world for being the holy city in hinduism. According to this religion, dying in Varanasi stops the process of reincarnation and lets the soul going in Nirvana (kind of paradise). That’s why Hindus from all of the world come to die there. Hospices are packed, waiting for their end.

When they die the bodies are covered with tissu and flowers, purified in the Ganga (the holy river) and burnt next to it. Around 250/300 bodies are burnt every day. That never stops. During the whole day you can see people carrying the body of their relatives to go on the sides of the Ganga. The fire used is the same from more than 3 500 years, according to the legend. After the combustion, the bones and the rest of the body are put in the Ganga.

It can be very violent for some sensitive people : you see dead people, you see their body burning, you hear a bomber noise when the fire attacks the head.

This atmosphere can be considered as strange or even inappropriate from an occidental eye, but there, it is completely usual. Indian people don’t see any problem with the fact that occidental tourists come to watch this process. If it’s done with respect and restraint, of course. Some guides are there to explain the cremation process for free, even if the usage is to give them money after the visit.

Let’s see that in details and pictures.

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Welcome in Varanasi.

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Next to the place of cremation, you can see a lot of wood used to brun the bodies. That place, which is a few meters from the place on the pic, is called Manikarnika Ghat. You can’t take pictures of it, it’s banned.

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After your visit in Manikarnika Ghat, you can donate wood as a charity gift. The price is around 280 rupees per kilo, 5 (kilos) is a lucky number.

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People are carrying wood to put it in Manikarnika Ghat.

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A shop keeper is selling incense to cover the smell of the burnt bodies. So, the smell in the atmosphere is pretty good.

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A relative of the deceased (son, father, uncle…) has to cut his hair to show his pain. He will also be the guy who break the head to let the soul go in Nirvana.

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The cremation process never stops. You can see people carrying stretchers during the whole day.

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Flowers and fabric are used to cover the body and the stretcher.

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A few meters from the place of cremation, people are taking bath in the Ganga or sleeping.

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Varanasi is also a touristic place with a lot of markets because of what i just explained and because of its many temples.

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