The first time I visited Varanasi ten years ago, I was surprised at how happy this city made me feel. Life revolves around death in Varanasi, as you might know, but that's not as gloomy as it sounds! Here, death is the big attraction. After all: entering Nirvana at the end of a long life is something to celebrate. I felt ‘respired’. When I got to shoot stills and 2nd camera for a TV-show ‘Verlossing in Varanasi’ I was lucky to meet the people that keep the fire burning. I felt happy to visit Kashi, Benares, Varanasi once again.
The Widow and her husband
Many people living in an old peoples home lost their children or spouses early in life. This woman lost her husband. He was killed over a property dispute. Her stuff is in steel boxes outside of her tiny room. 'They can throw it away when I'm dead'.
In the alleys surrounding the ghats old people prefer to stay close to the Ganges. Some don't even leave the city in fear of missing out on a run at Moksha.
A Room with a view at the Death hotel
Baba in the City
Bodies are being caried through the ally ways 24/7. A staggering 200 a day...
Dom Raja - The one that lights the fire. This gatekeeper of the Burning Ghat may be from an untouchable caste, but as a foreigner you will feel sort of star struck. On his turf you'll come face to face with death and the heat coming off of pyres that have been burning for over 3500 years. He was born to do this job.
Believers say that those who are cremated on the Burning Ghat, attain Moksha: freedom from the endless cycle of birth and death. In the maze-like alleys surrounding the ghats, old people's homes, ashrams and death hotels, everywhere people are awaiting Moksha. Many have traveled for days to end their journey of life in Varanasi. They have embraced their nearing deaths, which they hope will come very soon. There is no grieving and no mourning. Old, local residents also prefer to stay as close to the Ganges as possible. Some don't even ever leave the city in fear of missing out on a run at Moksha. Everywhere in Varanasi people are either eagerly awaiting Moksha or making a very nice living out of it. Varanasi feels like a year-round festival where dead bodies, each beautifully decorated in cloths in many colors and flower petals, crowd surf through the narrow alleyways. The main stage is Manikarnika Ghat: the famous Burning Ghat and the largest crematorium ground in the world.
Overlooking Manikarnika Ghat
'Doms' make sure the body burns all the way if there's not enough wood or when the wood has poor quality. With long sticks they push in any extremities.
The main stage in Varanasi is Manikarnika ghat, the largest crematorium ground in the world, the famous Burning Ghat. Believers say that those who are burned on the Burning Ghat, attain “Moksha”, freedom from the endless cycle of birth and death.
Burning believers on Manikarnika ghat is a 24/7 business so small shops, run from within tiny living rooms everywhere, sell last minute items needed to complete the many rituals.
The main stage in Varanasi, the largets cremation grounds in the world