Art & Culture

Varanasi – An Alternate Universe Offering Moksha After Death

I feel it’s not important to fall in love with a person. Sometimes you fall in love with a city.

Varanasi – a city that won’t leave you until it doesn’t consume you. I am a Banarasi and I feel immense joy in traditionally, faithfully, and habitually belonging to this city. It’s barely sunrise, but Varanasi has already awakened from its deepest sleep. A city that holds its history in Puranas, Vedas, Ghats, and Lord Shiva. Thousands of pilgrims walk barefoot, strolling on the corners of the Ghats every day. Just to witness the most beautiful sunrise of their life. Ganga, the holiest of all encapsulating sins of sinners even after getting polluted.



The culture of Varanasi has an inextricable relationship with the river Ganges and its religious significance. This city has been the cultural and religious center of India. Especially North India, for hundreds of years. Varanasi, called the city of Lord Shiva, is one of the seven holy cities of the country. According to legend, Lord Shiva brought the celestial river Ganga to the earth, this is the reason it is considered holy. Mark Twain has famously chronicled the image of Varanasi, just the way it is–

“Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together”

Varanasi Ghat

Varanasi not only has a cultural, mythical, or developmental side but also has a crazier side. The side which only a true Banarasi can glorify. The city is overjoyed in taking glimpses of the cows making their way from the narrow alley, people having kachaudi-sabji 4 am, tourists wearing harem pants, and monkeys snatching the food. The Google maps are not your way on Varanasi’s street people sitting ideal on Chai’s Tapri are your best savior.

Manikarnika Ghat

The Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of the Ganges is the only such Ghat in India, where the cremation of dead bodies is done 24 hours a day. It is the holiest cremation ground in Varanasi. According to Hindu customs, cremation can be done only during the day. In this case, Manikarnika Ghat is different as bodies burnt not only in the day but also at night. One thing which surely catches everyone’s attention is children bathing on either side of the Manikarnika ghat. Also playing cricket, people standing and talking casually, and laughing with each other, as if nothing happened.


The people here signify they have a self-controlled and phlegmatic reaction towards death. The reason behind this is that cremation, burning body, and Doms – all have been a part of their life for ages. The cycle of life and death here has a contrasting and magical connotation. Also, it is still an undisclosed phenomenon to apprehend. Believe it or not, but there’s a Head Post Office in the heart of the Visheshwarganj area. That receives dozens of packets and parcels containing human ashes every day.

Varanasi Ghats

There is a popular belief in the Hindu system that if human ash is immersed in the river Ganga. Then the soul will go to heaven and it will attain Moksha. These packages come from across the country with trust. Trust that the postman is the right person to let the soul rest in its right place. The postman handovers the package to priests in Manikarnika GhatThriugh which they perform the last rituals. Finally, the ashes scattered in the river – The final Mukti, Moksha, Nirvana!.


The repercussion of faith among thousands of people for Ganga, Varanasi, and Lord Shiva draws them every year to this holy land. Their utmost reliance on their God and the energy that power transmits enlightens the city day and night. Every Ghat in Varanasi has a unique name that resonates with a rare story. Moreover, that story connects with our extraordinary Indian culture. People don’t here enjoy life; they sit and watch life as it passes by.

There’s always something unimaginable about visiting a holy place. Although we have 64 Jyotirlingas in India, out of which 12 are the most important, Kashi Vishwanath is one of them. But visiting Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi will always bring in an unexpected encounter. The temples here are way more than crowded based on the days. Monday is Shiva day, Tuesday is Hanuman Day, Wednesday is Ganesha day, and so on. Other than devotees, almost every temple in Varanasi is occupied by an unexpected and unfriendly Ox, Cows, and Buffaloes. Also staring at you with their darker than dark eyes. These animals occupy at least half of the alley, not allowing devotees to pass easily. But after all the agitation and disturbance, this populated city stands disparate in terms of its spiritual energy. The moment you surrender yourself to Varanasi, the moment it will cast its spell on you!

“You can take a Banarasi out of Banaras, but you can never take Banaras out of a Banarasi”





Deepti Ratnam

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