India: Varanasi – Burning Ghats in Varanasi
Varanasi is the sacred city of Shiva, the destroyer of Hindu – you die and get cremated here and you don’t get reincarnated and all your life of suffering is permanently over. So it’s naturally every Hindu’s dream to come to Varanasi, cleanse in the sacred water of Ganges, die, and get cremated on the burning ghats with the holy fire. There are two ghats – Manikarnika and Harishchandra Ghats – were fires are burning 24/7 with corpses roasting on top of them, 80-100 bodies per day. The ashes are then dumped into the river. The holy fires on the ghats of Varanasi is the holiest (and the most expensive) place to get cremated in India, so a more budget option is just nearby with crematoriums piping white smoke like a conveyer belt processing plant. And once again all the ashes (and occasionally incompletely burned body parts) are dumped into the river, where coincidentally everybody bathes every morning. Around the holy fires, there are people chanting, cows munching on something, fresh wood being assembled, and photography not allowed. If approached by boat – you get a better view and a better change to photograph.