25 March, 2018

A Pilgrimage called Life---part 6

Some of my blogs are long, read them in parts and as I have recommended on my profile do read the post at least three times to understand them better

More about the Vedas

People assigned a date to the Vedas that they were composed in so and so year etc. The Vedas are eternal; the scriptures tell us that the Vedas have existed even before creation. In fact, they say, Brahma performed his function of creation with the aid of Vedic mantras, first came the universe of sound and then the visible universe.  So it is not possible to tell the age of the Vedas. If we say that an object is "anadi" it means that nothing existed before it

The Bahma alone knows the Vedas in their entirety; the Vedas themselves proclaim that the “Vedas are endless”. We cannot claim that all the Vedas have been revealed to the seers. Only about a thousand sakhas or recensions belonging to the four Vedas have been revealed to them. The Vedas themselves are called "Brahma" and his wife is also called Ved Mata (mother of the Vedas) that is why one who learns them (the student) is called a "brahmachari"—Brahma also meaning Vedas and charya meaning to follow, going after

The Vedas are Apaurueya, (purush meaning man hence apauruseya means "not of a man" not the work of any human author), Since the Mantras are associated with the names of sages, we make the wrong inference that they may have been composed by them, it is not so, the sages because of their spiritual power were able to perceive them and gift them to the World, because all Vedas have one common goal that is the well-being of the entire world and all creatures living in it, and the uplift of the Self of each one of us and its everlasting union with the Ultimate Reality

There are mantras that are especially valuable for their sound but are otherwise meaningless. Similarly there are works pregnant with meaning but with no mantrik power. The glory of the Vedas is that they are a collection of mantras that are at once notable as much for the energising character of their sound as for the lofty truths they proclaim.

Similarly, the Vedas serve a twofold purpose: while they have the mantrik power to do immense good to each one of us and too the world, they also contain teachings embodying great metaphysical truths.

The sounds of the Vedas are the language of the birds and hence they can never be written down; Click on the link to read

There are only a few true Brahmi’s left?

In India the caste (varna) system is deep rooted; the so called “Brahmins” or pundits as they are still called keep repeating endlessly that “I am a Brahmin” they do this whenever they get a chance

The caste system went on for thousands of years and it had it advantages; there was a system in society whereby all people worked as per their roles with sincerity and they were careful as to not do anything by which they would be thrown out of their society, apart from pride, there was a sense of fulfilment among members of each jati (caste) in pursuing the vocation

The Brahmins occupied the top position; they were the custodians of the Vedas, they conducted the Vedic ceremonies and were a link between the Earth and higher realms, they offered sacrifices (Vedic fire ceremonies) whereby they nourished the celestial beings and in turn humanity was blessed, they guided all others in the true way of living as prescribed in the Vedas, they were the true teachers and guides of society

They lead a simple and pure life, never hoarding anything, but as time went by their standards completely deteriorated. Their greed had no end; they made rules to appropriate wealth and those who were once the custodians of the Vedas and truth became the custodians of the ill-gotten wealth. They hid the truth and made their own dogmas and hence they reserved the study of the Vedas only for Brahmins, so that the wrong they preached for their own benefit would not be known to others

They who were giants in knowledge also became giants in evil

Read this article, where the degradation of the Brahmins is explained (click on it)

A hymn from the Rig Veda seems to indicate that one's caste is not necessarily determined by that of one's family:

Rig Veda 9.112.3
—I am a bard, my father is a physician, my mother's job is to grind the corn.

In the Chandogya Upanishad there is the story of Satyakama Jabala as a boy, eager for knowledge; Satyakama goes to the sage Haridrumata Gautama, requesting him to live in his school for Brahmacharya. The teacher asks, "My dear child, what family do you come from?" Satyakama replies that he is of uncertain parentage because his mother does not know who the father is, she told him just be known as my son, the son of Jabala. The sage declares that the boy's honesty is the mark of a "Brahmaa, true seeker of the knowledge of the Brahman and accepts him as a student in his school, later the boy becomes a Vedic Sage. This story also clearly indicates that caste is not defined by birth

The British rule brought about modernization in India but completely destroyed the moral fabric of the Indian society. Whatever little culture was remaining in the Brahmin families was totally destroyed when they opted for other jobs which were offered to them (because they were intelligent) and they got attracted to luxuries and changed their occupation completely

So the next time you hear someone proclaiming loudly that I am a Brahmin, tell him that he cannot say so because he is not doing anything to fulfil the role of a true Brahmin, it is like that a person saying that I am a carpenter because his fore fathers were carpenter’s but he does not know anything about carpentry and hence not taken it as a full time occupation 
Even the dogs are true to their breed, they are following their God given role of guarding since generations, and the so called Brahmins have to learn something from the dogs

Shri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Swami who was the Shankaracharya of the Kanchi mutt travelled India wide for a long time preaching that the Vedic culture must be brought again and he said that the Brahmins have been responsible for the degradation of Religion, I quote him from the various chapters of his book---if the Gayatri has not been chanted for three generations in the family of a Brahmin, its members lose caste (they cease to be Brahmins). The quarter where such Brahmins live cannot be called an "agrahara" or the Brahmin has not performed the sacrifices for three generations  its members will be called "Durbrahmanas", degenerated Brahmins, even though degenerate the label "Brahmin" sticks to them. There are prayascittas (expiatory rites) by means of which the corrupted Brahmins can be remade true Brahmins. But there is no such hope for a Brahmin in whose family Gayatri has not been chanted for three generations. A member of such a family ceases altogether to be a Brahmin and cannot be made one again. The same rule applies to Ksatriyas and Vaisyas with regard to the Gayatri mantra

It is so very important to chant the Gayatri mantra

Now with hardly any Brahmins left; how will we get the knowledge of the Vedas?

Sometimes there is so much of contradiction in the various literatures that are available. Example some say that except in Kali yuga, in the other three yugas it is permitted to sacrifice an animal in certain types of Vedic ceremonies, while others say that in all yugas it is strictly a taboo to conduct animal sacrifices and that the mention of the animals are allegories and indicates, the development of great spiritual power.

Since the Vedas are the highest inspiration possible to the earthly man, so with no one to guide us, we can receive the knowledge of the Vedas the way the sages received them---through our Hearts

A Purana says: " Tene Bramha hrdaya Adikavaye" the Pramatman imparted the Vedas to Bramha through his heart

The Bhagavata too, like the Gita, does not state that the Lord created the Vedas. It declares that they occurred in a flash in his heart that they came to him in a blaze of light. The word used on this context is "Sphuranam", occurring as a flash

When the sages were meditating the mantras of the Vedas appeared to them in a flash in their hearts

The Vedas never proclaim that "This alone is the path"

Nor do they affirm, "This is the only God" with reference to their own view of the Supreme Being. Instead, they declare that, if one adheres to any path with faith or worships any deity with devotion, one will be led towards the Truth.

The scripture of no other religion speaks thus of the many paths to liberation. On the contrary, each of them insists that the way shown by it alone will lead to liberation. The Vedas alone give expression to the high-minded view that different people may take different paths to discover the one and only Truth.

There are so many elaborated ceremonies prescribed by the Vedas, but there is not a single mention of the ceremony for conversion into the Vedic way of life, unlike Christianity, Islam and Buddhism who are always eager to convert people to their respective religions

This is because the Vedas are the original, initial teachings and whatever has come into being is because of their knowledge so they are the source of everything

Nothing is created by us; we just invite it from the Vedas

Hence the religion of the Vedas had no name; one has to give a name to differentiate between many others, later on it came to be known as Sanatan Dharam and in recent times as Hinduism   

The sounds of the Vedas remain for ever in ether, as per our spiritual level the law of balance works and we can invite them, but also remember all our sounds, what we speak (The sounds we produce are never destroyed) and also all our thoughts also forever remain in ether which affects the Destiny of this World, so we must be very careful with the way we think and what we say

The sounds of the Vedas purify the intellect, our thoughts and our environment

The Vedas are for everyone, not limited to a political boundary; in India the sages were able to perceive them, in some other country some saint must have given their teachings, and when a scientist makes a discovery he gets the information from the Vedas which are ever present in the ether and gives this theory to the World, and there is absolutely nothing wrong if you give a different name to the intelligence which is present in the ether instead of calling it the Vedas

Vedanta and Advaita

The Vedas talk about worship to various elements, and the Vedic fire ceremonies are sacrifices to the deities, when there is a worshiper and an object which is worshiped there exist duality, Advaita which is also a Vedanta doctrine means nondual or not two and teaches that the soul (true Self) is the same as the highest metaphysical reality, some people see a contradiction in this; no there is no contradiction

Our scriptures tell us that a person’s life is split into four stages called the four asramas, they are: Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (means going to the forest after completing all responsibilities) and Sannyasa (renunciation). 

He studies the Vedas as a student, he conducts the Vedic ceremonies as a householder, understand this very well that the Vedic ceremonies are for the householder and not for the renunciate (unlike other religions where the male priest conducts the ceremony the Vedic fire ceremony is conducted by the husband and wife together and the fire is lit by rubbing two pieces of wood), then comes the stage where the person retires to the forest, and starts learning the higher teachings of the Vedanta whereby he learns that he is no different from the one that created him

Aitareya Upanisad of the Rig Veda declares that--- Prajnanam Brahma “The Brahman means realising the jnana that is the highest”

Brhadaranyaka Upanisad of the Yajurveda declares that --- Aham Brahmasmi “I am the Brahman”

Chandogya Upanisad of the samaveda declares that --- Tat tvam asi  “That thou art” or “the Paramatman and you are the one and the same”

Mandukya Upanisad of the Atharvaveda declares that --- Ayam Atma Brahma  “This Self is the Brahman”

And finally the last stage of renunciation, where he performs no Vedic ceremonies, he has realized his true self and his very existence is a blessing to the World

This is the stage what Lord Krishna explains in the Gita: The Vedas are associated with the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. You must transcend these three qualities. Full of desire, they (the practitioners of Vedic rituals) long for paradise and keep thinking of pleasures and material prosperity. They are born again and again and their minds are never fixed in samadhi, these men clinging to Vedic rituals. “In another passage Krsna declares: "Not by the Vedas am I to be not realised, nor by sacrifices nor by much study . . . .” 

This does not mean that Lord Krishna is against the Vedas like Buddha and Mahavira, he wants the beings to get self-realization and reach the highest goal of the merger with that Almighty; the very reason of the existence of everything; and to come to this stage one has to pass through various stages as prescribed in the Vedas, now a days people directly jump to the Advaita  Vedanta and declare “I am He”

The Vedas also say this : Brhadaranyaka Upanisad---"He who becomes aware of the nature of the Atman - for him the Vedas will no longer be Vedas, the gods will cease to be gods, Brahmins will no longer be, Brahmins. . . . . . . ".

Vedokhilo dharmaulam; Dharmo rakshati rakshitah - the Vedas are the
root of all Dharma; Dharma protected, protects.

Like the story in the final chapter of the Mahabharata where the God Dharma takes the form of a dog and walks behind Yudhisthira (who never abandoned Dharma) in his last moments on Earth

This Upanisad describes a person who performs Vedic rites for ephemeral enjoyments, mundane benefits, as a mere beast (pasu).

Since the word pasu has come up let me tell you something—pasu means an animal, Rudra (Shiva as all call him) is also called pashu-pati (the Lord of the pashu), that does not literally mean he is the lord of animals, it means the one who has conquered his animal nature (there is the famous Pasupatinath temple in Nepal) 

The word "pasu" is very meaningful here. In a allegorical sense it means one who does not possess the sixth sense of a human and lives on an animal level, now a days we say that only animals have sixth sense; how degraded humans have become

So long as a JIva revolves in the quagmire of the senses and their natural attractions, the JIva is nothing but an animal (pashu). That is when the bond of karma anchors him to the concept of janma (birth and death). It is that bond that is called pAshaM. It makes him revolve again and again in the samsAra cycle. It is the sword of jnAna that cuts it asunder. And then he is no more a pashu. He becomes Shiva, the pashu-pati (the Lord of the pashu).

Now, I would like to tell something to my readers, please know this; that Gratitude has the most colourful vibrations 

Photo of a boy who receives new shoes during WW ii; look at the Gratitude on his face

Apart from India most of my readers are from USA and Russia, every day I see the statistics of the people who visit the blog.

It takes a lot of time to write articles, but no one has the gratitude to leave a comment, or interact, share, they just come, read and leave; I feel good that I am spreading the truth via this blog, even if a change is brought in one person after reading my blog it is a matter of great joy for me; I am telling you this because you are on the spiritual path and it would be good for you all if you can come out of this selfish attitude

I learn something new every day and would have liked to have a group on Facebook where knowledge would be shared, but with 16 followers of this blog there would not be any interaction, only if people would have shown some interest we could have gained more  

My best wishes to you all

A doha of Sant Kabir:

मीठा सब कोई खात है, विष है लागे धायनीम ना कोई पीवसी, सब रोग मिट जाय

Mitha Sab Koi Khaat Hai Vish Hai Laage Dhaay Neem Na Koi Peevasi Sabe Rog Mit Jaay

Everyone likes eating sugar. This results in spreading of poison in the body. None likes to drink juice of Neem leaves (which is bitter) this can cure the body from all diseases.

I have made changes to this article (click on link)

13 March, 2018

Death—part 4

More content was added to this article on 14/03/18

Manikarnika Ghat Varanasi

This is the fourth part of the series on death; together the series covers the following topics:

There is nothing like death / only fools desire to be immortal / there are various spiritual planes / ashes to ashes, dust to dust---it is not as simple as that /The state of mind at the time of death is very important / extreme quiet and self-control should be observed in the chamber of death / why cremation is preferable to burial, as a way of disposing of corpses / about tombs / and in spite of the warning by adepts, tombs were opened, releasing forces upon the world which have endangered it /controversy regarding prophet Muhammad’s tomb / Zoroastrian burial rituals and importance of the dog in the funeral rites and the psychic power of animals / All you wanted to know about the Manikarnika cremation Ghat at Varanasi 

Varanasi also known as Banaras is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, it is said that the Gods lived here; it was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi during the time of the Buddha, who gave his first sermon nearby at Sarnath.

There are two cremation ghats at Varanasi; Harishchandra (also referred as Adi Manikarnika) and Manikarnika ghat, the flames of the funeral pyres at Manikarnika Ghats have been burning since thousands of years and they forever burn meaning there was never a time when there was no funeral pyre burning

The Manikarnika ghat is a Shakti Peetha

Manikarnika It is the only cremation ground which is considered as a place of pilgrimage, due to the presence of the manikarnika kund, which is a sacred water body existing since eternity and taking a bath here on Chandra grahan (lunar eclipse) is considered auspicious whereas taking a dip at Brahma Sarovar and Sannihit Sarovar at Kurukshetra in Haryana on the Surya Grahan (solar eclipse) day is important, all these water bodies are related to Lord Vishnu

The Manikarnika kund

On the ghat itself, are the Gods revered footprints (paduka)

It is a widely held belief that those who are cremated at the Manikarnika ghat attend moksha that is release from the cycle of rebirth, bodies are brought here from all over India, hence the Varanasi airport is possibly the only airport that has, apart from a taxi stand, a stand where a number of mortuary vans - called the shav vahini that transport the dead are available for hire. You could rent them like you would rent a Taxi at any other airport.

However some pundits believe that it is not written anywhere that souls get liberated after cremation at the Manikarnika, what is written in the scriptures as per them is that anyone who dies in Varanasi, you attain what is popularly known as ‘Kashi Labh’ or ‘the fruit of Kashi and the path to liberation is open for the soul, even if the soul has to take a rebirth it would be only in Varanasi

There are even guesthouses in Varanasi where people check in to die, where one can stay for a few days only and if death does not occur then they have to move out, Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan is the most famous one the others are Mumukshu Bhawan and Ganga Labh Bhawan

The owner of the Manikarnika ghat is the dom raja (raja meaning king) of the dom community, the cursed tribe, the lowest of the low, the untouchables who apart from working at the cremation ghats, only get the manual scavenging job, it is an irony that Shiv is considered as the lord of the cremation grounds and he is kind, non-judgemental and ever accepting, but the doms are not allowed inside the famous Shiv kashi vishwanath temple

In Varanasi, all Doms have the family name—Chaudhary

Doms are the caretakers of the cremation grounds and the main keepers of the fire that lights the pyres; they have preserved the sacred fire at the cremation ground since time immemorial

The eternal fire at the manikarnika ghat

The dom raja passing on the fire to lit the pyre

The eternal fire at Harishchandra ghat, and the fire passed on to lit the pyre

In other cremation grounds such sacred fire is not maintained

The Dom raja provides the first set of five logs of wood required for the funeral pyre. He then hands over a flame from the sacred fire, on a dried piece of grass brought especially from the hinterlands of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to the relative of the deceased person, who then uses it to light the funeral pyre.

The Dom raja (King)

Once the fire on the funeral pyre is lit the Dom’s take over and ensure that the body is burnt completely, after the body burns the ashes are cast unceremoniously into the Ganges

The tax collected to give the sacred flame is called the 'agni-kar' (agni for fire and kar for tax)

In 1998, the Municipal Committee of Varanasi got the Doms to charge a standard rate of 100 rupees ($1.3) for their work. But this did not last. In most cases, Doms charge people what they seem to be able to afford. Let me put it this way the Dom raja extorts money

By experience they can make out the paying capacity of the people also they have a network of informers who pass on the information regarding the net worth of the dead persons family and then the Dom Raja charges them accordingly, It is said that when the dead body of the recently deceased former king of Kashi (Varanasi) was brought for cremation at Manikarnika, the dom was paid 600000 rupees and was given the rights to acres of land in lieu of his services rendered.

They have extorted title deeds of farm lands written in their name when the poor farmers from the hinterlands came down to cremate their dead, if the poor could not pay in cash they were asked to part with their jewellery

The Dom raja is supposed to provide the first set of five logs of wood required for the funeral pyre but they insist that all other wood and articles required be bought from them, if the poor do not have enough money for all the wood required the body is left half burnt and latter eaten by dogs and scavenger birds like the crow and the remains just thrown in the Ganga---the Doms show no mercy

Facts of the Manikarnika ghat

About 5000 people are employed directly or indirectly in this trade

The main item is wood; Firewood chopped from different varieties of trees are stocked up in huge quantities, the rich of course prefer sandalwood to burn their dead while the poor are happy with any kind of wood

Here 5, 7, 9 and 11 mann of wood is sold (1 mann equals 40 kilograms) so on an average at least 300 kilos of wood is required per body (chopped down from at least 4-5 mature trees) and with about 350 dead bodies getting cremated every day. The narrow alleyways that lead to the ghat from the main roads are completely unsuitable for any motored vehicle to carry the load hence everyday around 1000 quintals of chopped wood is ferried on boats across the Ganges to be stocked up at the Manikarnika ghat by merchants inside and around the unused temples that are close to the ghat

A survey by the United Nations shows that 400-500 kg of wood is required to cremate one body, and according to a report in CNN, 50 to 60 million trees are burned during cremations every year in India. I hope and pray that alternate means like Cow Dung Cakes, ‘pyre ovens’ on cremation sites that would help generate enough heat to efficiently burn a human body with less wood 100 kgs only, white coal or using agricultural waste are adopted by people as an alternate to the traditional wood pyre

Apart from firewood huge quantities of ghee (clarified butter) which is needed as a fuel to keep the pyre burning (in the cities they use kerosene), turmeric, sesame seeds, barley, sandalwood scraps, incense sticks, flowers, coconuts, bananas and robes to cover the dead are sold, packages on offer include a sandalwood sawdust bath for the corpse and a three-hour chant for peace plus many more packages

There are various places within the Manikarnika Ghat reserved for people from various strata of society. The Brahmin caste has an enclosed space that was leased over from the Dom’s in order to ensure that the Dead Brahmin is not burnt besides another’s from an untouchable caste (never mind if the Dom who gives the sacred fire are themselves untouchables and belong to the lowest ranks of the “Dalits”, at the bottom of the Hindu caste system) Similar the Royal families and their descendants and relatives have leased out a platform where their dead are cremated. The commoners that include the untouchables and the poor are burnt at the main platforms of the ghat.

But when the mighty Ganges River overflows its banks following heavy monsoon rains, large parts of the Manikarnika ghat are submerged by floodwaters, and then bodies have to be burnt on the roofs of havelis [old mansions] and other old houses along the ghats and that is the time the higher caste and the royals have to bear that their bodies are burnt alongside the commoners

Occasionally there are corpses that arrive but they are not to be cremated. They are just thrown into the Ganga and left for the living creatures to be eaten up. These are the ones who are supposed to have had an ‘akaal mrutyu’ an untimely or incomplete death. People who have taken their own lives, pregnant women, children below two years of age, people who have died due to a snake bite and lepers are not burnt because of the belief that their souls have not yet been readied to free from the liberation of birth and rebirth.

It is awful (very bad or unpleasant) to see a dead body just floating in the Ganga

Not all bodies are covered in the same way; the system goes as follows:

The ones that have lived a full life which implies men who were married, borne sons and grandsons and lived up to a reasonably ripe age are covered with colourful tinsel wrapped cloth and garlands of marigold flowers around them.

Then there are corpses wrapped in red and decorated with flowers and vermillion which belong to women who have lived a full life (i.e. borne sons at the least and have predeceased their husbands). They are called Suhaagan  i.e. the fortunate ones.

Then there are ones wrapped in white cloth and not decorated with any kind of flowers. These are widowed women irrespective of the age they have died

Men who die relatively young also are wrapped in white, although their corpses would be decorated with flowers.

It is widely believed that nobler the soul, the quicker it turns into ashes and also the body of a person with no desires left is light in weight

Before cremation the body is immersed and washed in the Ganga

About ten to fifteen minutes after the funeral pyre has been lit, one hears the sound of the skull cracking open. This signifies the escape of the consciousness from the physical body and liberation. The Dom’s with the help of long bamboo sticks constantly carry out stuffing the wood and the flesh into the pyre and stirring it up later the bones and the flesh are pushed into the central part of the funeral pyre so that all parts of the body are burned and turn into ashes in about two to three hours, At the end of this ritual, only a small portion remains: the trunk for men and the hips for women

The Doms say that the smell of burning hair is the worst, their job is not an easy one so they numb their senses by drinking copious amounts of alcohol and smoke cheap ganja (marijuana) and chew on gutka (a mixture of tobacco and crushed nuts) to cope up

So alcohol and smoking becomes a part of their life and hence it is not surprising to see the Doms performing a daily ritual where they offer alcohol and cigarettes along with fruits and flowers as thanksgiving to Kallu Dom, the ancient chieftain of the Dom community under whom the great king Raja Harishchandra was enslaved (The present day Dom’s at the Manikarnika ghat are believed to be the descendants of Kallu Dom)

During my visit to the Manikarnika ghat I saw a Dom urinating on the wood kept to be used in the pyre, such type of idiotic behaviour can only be done by a person who is not under his senses

Whatever can be reused or recycled is done in the following way:

Dom family collect the clothes or jewels of the corpse and sell it in shops and once the ashes are cast into the Ganges another set of Doms neck-deep in the charcoal black water sift for any valuables that can’t be taken off the dead-- like gold teeth or firmly embossed rings

The heat of the funeral pyre would melt the gold and it would be bound to lose shape. However small pieces would be found scattered in the ashes that are then thrown into the river they are recovered by Dom workers who sieve the burnt ash immersed in water through a fine cloth checking for pieces of gold before throwing it out into a mound that would then be carried away and dried up to serve as coal for other uses

An electric crematorium has been set up at the Harishchandra ghat but first the body is brought to be immersed and washed at Manikarnika

Apart from work at the Manikarnika ghats the doms get the job to clean dry latrines that is the manual scavenging job, one poor dom fellow got tired of his work and opened  a sweet shop but nobody was willing to eat at his shop so he had to come back to the ghat burning bodies

The Dom family feud and a woman locks horns with the system to become the first Dom queen

There is the Dom king and there are around 30 main doms and after them come the 500-odd doms, who form the second rung of hierarchy

After centuries of extorting money the Dom Rajas family has accumulated immense wealth; there has even been a case of a Dom rajas son getting kidnapped for a huge ransom (there operates a strong kidnapping mafia in Uttar Pradesh backed by the politicians)

After the last Dom raja died he left two wife’s, one was childless and it is only natural that she did not get along with her husband’s second wife and she was denied any claims, so she fought many court cases to claim her right to collect the Agni kar tax, she eventually won and took up the work of her deceased husband, now there is more or less peace in the Dom house hold because the days are divided where various family members including females who get to keep the collection which is quite huge; which is collected in an iron chest and transported with an armed guard at the end of the day, so there is no fixed Dom king or queen

It is indeed women empowerment at its best when a female from an orthodox lineage where the moment a girl reaches puberty she is not allowed to study and is forbidden to step out of her home alone without a male relative had fought with the system and continued the work of her husband otherwise it is unimaginable that there can be a presence of a woman on the Hindu cremation ground

However she being the head, her role is limited to collecting the Agni kar tax and she does not handle the bodies

The Dom rajas palace on the bank of the Ganga

Some more very interesting facts

It is a custom in the dom household that food is cooked on burning wood which is taken out from the funeral pyre

The photo is of the dom raja who is now dead, sitting near the cooking pot, he is badly burnt, it is a sad paradox, for a man in charge of burning the dead to get burnt himself because of a cylinder blast at a wedding

Holi (also known as the "festival of colours”) celebrations start on the night before Holi with a Holika Dahan where people gather, perform religious rituals in front of the bonfire, and pray that their internal evil be destroyed the way Holika, the sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu, was killed in the fire. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi – a free-for-all festival of colours where people smear each other with colours and drench each other.

But at the Manikarnika ghat Holi is played with ashes from funeral pyres and red gulal, amidst other lit pyres; before celebrating holi a puja (ceremony) is performed at Baba Mahashmashan Nath Mandir offering bhang, ganja (marijuana), fruits and flowers to the deity

On one hand the dead body arrives for cremation at the Ghat, while on the other hand sadhus arrive to play holi with ashes from the funeral pyres

In the photo above (click to enlarge) see the munda mala (skulls of humans worn around the neck); by possessing the skull of a human the person can take charge of his soul, hence it is very important that the skull cracks /pops open during cremation  

Now coming back to the person who is wearing such a munda mala, your thought will be-- he must be a Aghori, I do not know who the person is, most probably he may be a fraud, but the full world has such degraded views about the Aghor panth

Let me just tell you this; in today’s World where we have stooped down so much; are the politicians doing good for the society, the answer is no, they are corrupt to the bone people who just want power and money, are the Bankers helping to build a nation , the answer is again no, today the top bankers are ruining the economy, so similarly people who call themselves Aghoris are not true Aghoris of the Aghor Panth, they are just human flesh eating misguided  people who engage in post-mortem rituals

The word Aghor literary means “non-terrifying”; they are the Vedic Alchemist who having transformed their being to be people of light and are capable of bringing a change in energy and matter

Feel blessed when you hear the word “Aghor”, someday you would know all about them

This ghat also witnesses a unique programme of dance and music amid the smokes from the pyres and cracking sounds coming from the burning bodies at the cremation ghat; annually on the seventh night of Chaitra Navratra, when the sex workers after cleaning the temple, offer their prayer to the deity of cremation ghat. And after performing religious rituals, they present dance and music at the makeshift stage amid the burning pyres in respect of the lord of cremation ground. It is a tradition in Varanasi that the 'Nagar Vadhu' (courtesans or 'bride of the city') perform for the deity at the seventh night of Chaitra Navaratra

Raja Savai Man Singh of Amber, who had built Man Mandir Ghat in 1585 near Dashshwamedh Ghat, had also renovated the Mahashamshan Nath temple at Manikarnika Ghat. In Hindu tradition, it is common to hold music programme on special occasions. No reputed artist wanted to perform at the cremation ghats but the Nagar vadhus (nautch girls / sex workers) offered their services at the inauguration of the temple and since then the tradition continues

Nautch from the word नाच (nāch), from the root Sanskrit word Nritya meaning dance {currently I am studying how most words have their roots in Sanskrit}

Dancers offering prayers at the  Mahashamshan Nath temple at Manikarnika Ghat before performing

The dancers performing, while funeral pyres burn in the background

Doms’ akhada-- The corpse burner's wrestling pit

Akhada means a place of practice, the Dom’s have an akhada for body building and wrestling

The Doms are known for their physical prowess and every Naag Panchami (snake worship festival) they make a public show of it, lifting impossibly heavy stone wheels and doing various acrobatics

While Untouchability is predominant, there was a time when the Dom akhada would overflowed with pehelwans (Pahlavan is a title which designates someone really strong) from different castes, for a pehelwan, the caste did not matter, all were equal on the playing field. In fact, a number of wrestlers, irrespective of their caste, drop their family names /surnames for the title of “pehelwan”, indicating that their art, rather than their birth, defines them

Today, a lot of gyms have come up, and the young men prefer going there, hence the Dom akhada is not so popular now

The dom raja at the dom akhara, the traditional body building equipment in the background

You may read the detailed article here

Now coming to the most important point, this was the reason I wanted to put this article in the Pilgrimage called Life series instead of the Death series

People have the desire to die in Varanasi and get cremated at the Manikarnika for salvation

Salvation comes to the one who has no desire left for salvation

Or no desires remaining; not even the desire to have no desire

No doubt the rituals as per the Vedas are of upmost importance, but people are fooled, today religion has become an Industry

It is after all, the Karma of the person which will be with him in his after life

The rich like to be cremated on sandalwood; will it make a difference to the progress of the soul?

When the super-rich and influential people visit temples; the temple committee members and priest are all out to please them, following them like dogs wagging their tails, the security staff of these VIP’s just push people around and they are made to sit close to the main idols and special prayers performed for them; are the Gods pleased with this?  

Watch this short video which shows the essence of bhakti

Cannot explain the essence of bhakti better than this

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