Varanasi, India

Varanasi is one of Hinduism’s most important sites. More than one million pilgrims visit the city every year, and some of them have no intention of ever returning home again. To die and be cremated in the city of light and Lord Shiva is to obtain moksha, to be liberated from the eternal cycle of death and rebirth.

Manikarnika ghat cremation site

Manikarnika ghat is the biggest of the two cremation sites. Biers with corpses awaiting cremation lie on steps leading down to the holy River Ganges. The Doms, who tend the fires, are classed as Untouchables because they handle corpses.


A steady flow of corpses arrive from the countryside surrounding Varanasi. All cremation corteges follow a special route through the old town.


Tonnes of firewood are delivered to Manikarnika, the main cremation site, every day and sold to mourners who have come to cremate their loved ones.

Funeral pyres

At Manikarnika ghat, where most of the dead are cremated, funeral pyres burn around the clock.

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