Varaṇasi: World’s Most Ancient Civilised City

Varaṇasi: World's Most Ancient Civilised City
Varaṇasi: World's Most Ancient Civilised City

Varaṇasi, previously known as Benaras, is one of the most ancient cities in the world. Many believe that this city is older than any tradition or even the history itself.

History, Myths And Beliefs Of Varaṇasi

Aryans started living in Northern Plains of India along the “life giving” river Ganga. From these plains they populated exponentially in a very short span of time and later spread all across India. Some researcher believes this city had even existed before two of India’s excavated civilisations which we know as Harappa and Mohanjo-daro. They believe that this city is at least five thousand years old and even existed on the world map. Some even go to the extend of saying that Varanasi in its glory will remain forever; and exist until our solar system is exists.

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City of Ghats

If we start to describe Varaṇasi, we can write volumes, but in this short article I would stick to just a few of them. First of all, I would like to say that Varanasi has eighty river fronts (ghat) and every ghat has its own history. Like one ghat is known as Tulsi Ghat where Saint Tulsidas created Ramcharitmanas, one of the holy Hindu books. People say that he wrote it some five hundred years ago. However, in this article I want to throw some light on one of unusual river fronts of Varanasi. We know this unusual ghat as the Maṇikarṇika Ghat.

Manikarnika Ghat
Manikarnika Ghat
Manikarnika Ghat

The tourism associated with Maṇikarṇika Ghat is of a unique kind. People from across India bring their deceased family members to perform their last rites. According to the Hindu mythology, this special ghat has some divine intervention. It is believed that if a person is cremated on this ghat after their death, they attain moksha.

Not even a single day passes when dead bodies are not cremated here. The number of cremations in a day goes up to four to five hundred a day. Furthermore, people of faith have this notion that the earth will be cease to exist if the fire on Maṇikarṇika Ghat stopped. As a result, from that day when first body was cremated here, till the present day, it has never happened that cremation on this ghat ever stopped. The Brahmin who performs the ultimate ritual is famously known as the Mahapatra and he is believed to be most educated and influential Brahmin in the entire Brahmin community.

The Cremation Ceremony

The family of the deceased rests the body on the bamboo stretcher and the routine ceremony starts. Next comes the cost of cremation. The cost of cremation depends upon the weight and type of wood used. The most expensive variety of wood used during the cremation is sandal wood. Only a few people opt for it because of its high cost.

Lastly, the Mahapatra sets the fire to the deceased to performs the ultimate ritual. If you ever happen to pass by the Maṇikarṇika Ghat, either by boat or foot, you will always witness smoke coming out from here every time.

Edited by: Himesh Saraf