The Cremation Ghat, Varanasi

For a Hindu pilgrim in Varanasi, the ultimate and final act of devotion is to be cremated at one of the scores of ghats along the banks of the Ganges. Because many of the ghats are owned by private families, only two ghats are currently open for cremations of the general public.

At any given moment, there may be as many as a dozen funeral pyres going on at the same time, 24 hours a day. Once the body has been cremated, the ashes are swept into the holy Ganges, to be taken away by its currents. Cremations at Varanasi are unique, for if you are blessed enough to be cremated here, you break the cycle of reincarnation and may proceed directly to heaven.