Oh My Ghat
Life revolves around death in Varanasi,
but that's not as gloomy as it sounds.
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. The Dom Raja family has been the traditional gatekeeper of the Burning Ghat for many generations. They may be from an untouchable caste, but as a foreigner you will feel star struck. On their turf you'll come face to face with death and impermanence, while basking in the heat that comes off of the pyres that have been burning for over 3500 years.
Here, death is the big attraction. After all: entering Nirvana at the end of a long life is something to celebrate. 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.