What is it about dying in Varanasi (or Banaras or Kashi)?
Death is an event in life that though sums up everything for a life, leaves a lifetime of thoughts and afterthoughts for others who are associated with the departed. It leaves a void that remains there, throughout. The pain, that is unbearable initially, becomes a way of life with time.
That is what happens with death in every normal human life – even for people of this eternal city – one of the oldest living places – a living mix of spirituality, religion and a living weaved around them.
But for people from this eternal city who care to go beyond their routines to know what Varanasi stands for, what Kashi means and why it pulls everyone from across the globe who look for ‘questions into life and death’, death brings more meanings about it than they already know.
For many, death is a way of life in Varanasi. It supports many families. The business of death sustains lives here. And it has continued for generations.
For many, it is the spiritual realization that shows them the way ahead – clearing the clouds of ambiguities and dichotomies. For all Banarasis and many outside the city, dying here, in this city of Lord Shiva, is the ultimate nirvana, a freedom from the cycle of rebirth, the Moksha, the core of Hinduism/Vedanta philosophy.
For Banarasi folks and visitors/tourists/pilgrims, the Lord Shiva, Ganga and death association (The Holy Trinity of Hinduism) with the city and its addresses, especially the Varanasi ghats, including the two eternal cremation ghats, Manikarnika and Harishchandra, are a must visit. Many visitors of the city, in fact, make it a point to spend quality time at these two places while the ordinary Banarasi has countless strolls of them in his lifetime.
For thinking folks, it leaves an indelible impression.
And that imprints an equally indelible reality of death – the only certain event of life.
Sitting at these two ghats makes you feel ‘not low’ but poignant about a life’s uncertainty and its only defined fate – death. One can see through layers of illusions. The introspection and retrospection here, in those moments, are most objective that one can have.
And it all happens wrapped in the fundamental tenet of living – what lies beyond and what goes with you. One doesn’t need to be a sage to ponder over these aspects. The atmosphere there begins the thought process in you.
Visiting Varanasi looking for questions of life or spending time at its round the clock working crematoria doesn’t change the way you live but its changes fundamentally the way you think – that how to sift reality from countless illusions your soul is trapped into.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey