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24 Apr, 2022


Plumes of smoke swirl toward the sky at Manikarnika Ghat. No, it’s not from a factory — it’s from the perpetual cremations that happen on this ghat. Hindus believe that Manikarnika Ghat is one of the most auspicious places for the departed to reach moksha (emancipation from the cycle of spiritual rebirth). The funeral pyre at this ghat burns 24/7, and around 100 cremations take place every day.

Priests or guides frequently offer to lead tourists through the fascinating ghat, however some can be aggressive in their demands for money. You may see doms (members of an untouchable caste) carrying cloth-wrapped bodies on makeshift stretchers, along with piles of firewood stacked up, ready to feed the pyre.

You may also be offered the chance to see a cremation up close — for a fee, of course. While profound, the experience is not for the faint of heart, nor is it a tourist attraction in the traditional sense. Know your limits, be respectful, and avoid taking photos of the funerals, mourners, and the departed.

Hot tip: If you’re interested in the ritualistic cremations, but can’t stomach the idea of seeing them up close, consider passing by Manikarnika Ghat on a boat tour along the Ganges River. The distance dampens the effect while still giving tourists a sense of what’s happening in this important place.

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