Funeral gats at Varanasi.

When a Hindu dies their body is cremated, preferably within twenty four hours and if possible by the Ganges where their remains can be scattered in the holiest of rivers. Varanasi is the holiest city of them all. Several of the stepped gats at Varanassi are only for funeral pyres and they burn all day and night.

The funeral gats at times have a rather dystopian feel, at least to Westerners like me.

Most Hindus are cremated as it is believed that this will help their soul to escape quickly from the body. The exact details of the funeral ceremonies, which form the last of the samskaras (antyeshti samskara, final reincarnation), vary according to tradition and place.

Mural by the main funeral gat at Varanassi.

Mural by the main funeral gat at Varanassi.