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Burning ghat [Benares].

Burning ghat [Benares].

Photographer: Prasad, Madho

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1905

Shelfmark: Photo 17/3(15)

Item number: 15

Length: 21.1

Width: 28.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the Burning Ghats, Varanasi, from the Kitchener of Khartoum Collection: 'Views of Benares. Presented by the Maharaja of Benares' by Madhao Rao, c.1905. Hindus regard the Ganges as amrita, the elixir of life, which brings purity to the living and salvation to the dead. Those who die at Varanasi are considered extremely fortunate and blessed for they attain release from samsara, the unceasing cycle of death and rebirth, and are assured of moksha or enlightenment. The dead person’s family brings the body down from the city on a bamboo stretcher covered in a red or white cloth, following with chants and prayers. The body is dipped into the Ganges and put on a funeral pyre. It is lit from an eternal flame, which is kept burning on the ghat, by the eldest son or a close relative. Burning the body is a way of offering it to Agni, the god of fire. The ashes are later scattered onto the river. The cremation ghats are presided over by the Doms.

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