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Home » Blog » Largest Crematorium ground of World Manikarnika Ghat Varanasi India

Largest Crematorium ground of World Manikarnika Ghat Varanasi India

Sep 25, 2016

Hinduism staunchly believes in rebirth. Cremation (Antyeshti Samskara) is one of the 16 Sanskara in Hinduism. It is believed that cremation relieves one’s soul in universe and opens a way to assimilate to divine.

Thus there are numerous crematorium Ghats in each and every city of India where cremation takes place. These crematoriums serve a smaller purpose where people cremate their loving ones who are dead.

Varanasi is one of these cities that have many smaller crematoriums. For centuries Varanasi has been the centre of such crematoriums and belief is to the extent that people waiting their deaths come to Varanasi in advance in hope to liberate their souls. Most important of these crematoriums are:

Hindu’s Belief for cremation

It is Hindu belief that getting cremated in Varanasi takes one soul to the Baikunth Dham, believed to be one of the abodes of Lord Vishnu. Moreover, salvation could be attained.

Every nearby dweller of Varanasi must take their dead to be cremated at Manikarnika Ghat. People who are far away from Varanasi and reaching Varanasi is a tough task for them, cremate their dead at nearby crematoriums and submerge their mortal remains or ashes into River Ganges at Manikarnika Ghat.

Architecture at Manikarnika Ghat Varanasi India

  • Manikarnika Ghat has one Vishalakshi Temple, considered to be one of the Shakti Peethas in India.
  • There are stone stairs leading to River Ganges with bathing platforms
  • There is Charanpaduka of Lord Vishnu who is considered to have meditated here.
  • There is a Pushkarini Kund or Manikarnika Kund at ghat
These architectures are believed to be directly associated with God hence have great religious importance.

Legends of Manikarnika Ghat Varanasi India

How Manikarnika ghat got his Name –

  • It is said that once Lord Vishnu was doing penance to please Lord Shiva. When Lord Shiva came to fulfil his wish he started taking Bath in the Manikarnika Kund. Then, one of Mani (a precious stone) fell from his earrings. Thus the name came up Manikranika.
  • Another legend goes that When Goddess Parvati left his body in anger at the Yajna being performed by his father, Lord Shiva started carrying his body. When he reached his abode Varanasi, one of ears ring fell from corpse of Sati in Manikranika Kund. Thus the place is associated with Shakti (Power) cult of worship in Hinduism as Parvati is one of the incarnations of Shakti.

Ancient Rituals in Modern Age

Though Megalithic sites present a totally different form of cremation it is obvious that cremation grounds and processions were in existence which are continue till date with modifications. Last Rites process on Manikarnika Ghat after death:

A corpse is carried and paraded by four men on a bamboo bier. Everything from clothes of shroud to the bamboo bier is having a symbolic meaning according to practices. Clothes of shroud covering corpse is according to customary practices which are uniform throughout India.

Then corpse is taken to Manikarnika Ghat where it is purified in water of River Ganges as Ganges is believed to be Holy River.

Then corpse is dried by putting on the stairs for several hours.

Next, wooden logs are bought from Doms and corpse is put into the pyre or of logs.

There is an special tradition that fire used to burn is bought by the King of Doms by their family member. Without that this process is incomplete.

Then head of corpse which is hard to be burnt is crushed with wooden logs by the family member of Doms.

Finally mortal remains like ashes are thrown into the river water.

Types of Cremation in Hindu Religion

Cremation is done on several bases and different customs are followed according to age, sex, caste and class of the dead.
1. Children below the age of 2 and saints are buried as it is believed that they are too pious to be cleansed by such practices.
2. Criminals and people who commit suicide are also buried as it is believed that they are too sinful to be purified by pyre.

Social Structure even after death in Hindu religion

Corpses are burnt in different pits which are especially made for cremation. These pits are built following staunch norms of casteism. Casteism is one of ironies that exists in Hindu societies from birth and continues even after death. There are four pits for four castes.

  • Brahmana Pit
  • Kshatriya Pit
  • Vaishya Pit
  • Shudra Pit

Ostracized Doms

Dom is a sub-caste in Shudra Varna according to Vedic traditions. These are perhaps the same Chandala caste people who are described in many of Buddhist and Vedic scriptures. Doms are the untouchables of India who are solely authorised to perform all the rituals related to cremation. Doms are ostracized on several occasions. They are looked down upon by the society and called at the performance of last rites only. They are the only people who can’t separate them with such practices even if they wish to do so. Generations to generations this practice is ruining the emotional and psychological development of Dom society. Even after years of implementation of Untouchability Laws by Government of India is unable to eliminate such practices which can give Doms a life of dignity.

The Rich and the Poor in process of cremation at Manikarnika Ghat Varanasi

Corpses of rich who are able to afford costly material are burnt on Sandalwood logs with Ghee poured on pyre. Those of poor are burnt on mango logs. Rest, corpses belonging to who can’t even afford wood are burnt on cow dung as cow dung in India is considered to be one of the most reverent materials.

Superstitions shadowing surrounding about cremation on Manikarnika Ghat India

Mango wood logs, cheaper than sandalwood, are used for burning human bodies. About nine million people die in India annually, so for practical reasons other methods of cremations are being introduced using electricity or gas instead. Electric Cremations are encouraged though find a disappointing number of people. Only corpses in police custody are burnt on electric crematoriums. Such big number of deaths requires large number of woods which are a burden on forests which are itself at the verge of extinction.

Life goes on at the same place:

It is unbelievable that the ghat presents a lively atmosphere at the same place. People playing cards, laughing and children running are daily routine that goes on besides mourning. Thus, Manikarnika ghat juxtaposes the reality and fantasies of life at the same place.

In Hinduism, it is believed that Rebirth takes place and the current body is only a form of clothing for soul. Once the task of Karma is finished for one person in this world body sheds the worn out clothing.

Thus, Hinduism gives hope for future and it is considered that as good is the performance of last rites so is the new form of body in next birth of the deceased.The funeral process is vital in achieving nirvana, and the ritual’s many stages must be perfectly performed or the soul won’t find its way in the afterlife.

There is no known date when the cremation started at Manikarnika Ghat . About 300 corpses are burnt on an average at Manikarnika Ghat. On peak days it reaches to thousands.

Tourism at crematorium place at Manikarnika Ghat Varanasi India

Thousands of tourists throng at Manikarnika Ghat even they don’t know any of Hindu beliefs and processions related to death. Tourists come to capture eye catching view at the crematorium. The burning and drying up corpses, the mourning relatives, the loitering bulls, the basking dogs, playing people amid all din, cheering children amid funeral procession is one astonishing thing to be found only at Manikarnika Ghat at Varanasi in India.

The Hidden Fact about Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi India.

Funeral is the thing that is open for everyone. But the hidden thing on Manikarnika Ghat which is least sighted is Aghor Sadhana or the Practice of Aghoris to get salvation. Aghoris are believed to be the devotees of Lord Kaal Bhairava one of the incarnations of Lord Shiva. Aghoris are least seen and they practice gory and fearful activities that are hard to be believed by one even if he sees their practices with naked eye. One of such is eating dead and decaying corpses.

Tourists are encouraged to visit and write their experiences on such practices, beliefs and superstitions prevailing at Manikarnika Ghat. The experience would lead you to unbelievable facts, traditions and beliefs of Hindus in India and the broader knowledge about cultural phenomenon elsewhere than your own land.