There are over 3 miles of ghats on the banks of the Ganges river in Varanasi. A ghat is a large building with terraces in the back and steps down to the river bank from the terraces.
Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges will absolve one of all their sins. Some who live in Varanasi are absolved daily. The Ganges is one huge bathtub.
Hindus also believe that if one is cremated on the banks of the Ganges and their ashes sprinkled into the water they will obtain nirvana and the cycle of rebirth will end. There are 2 ghats which are cremation ghats. Combined they burn 2-300 corpses a day. Photos are not allowed here. We watched up close as corpses covered in elaborate silk drapes are carried past us down the ghat steps on stretchers to the river where river water is poured over the corpse to saturate it. The corpse is carried back up the steps and laid on the ground next to a steel framed bin filled with sandalwood logs. The silk drapes were removed exposing the corpse wrapped in white linen but with face exposed. 4 men lifted the corpse off the ground and set it on top of the wood filled bin. Family members laid pieces of sandalwood on top of the corpse and fire was started under the bin. It takes three hours for everything to burn to ash. The following photo it of one cremation ghat from a distance.
We spent four hours on our own walking the 3 miles of ghats and back again. Another amazing cultural experience.
Tomorrow we have flights #6&7 to get back to Kolkata. We will overnight there for a raucous New Years Eve again on Park Street at The Park Hotel. The following morning we fly to Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Island chain for beach time at the new Taj Exotica Resort.