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Manikarnika Ghat
Manikarnika Ghat

Manikarnika Ghat

Ghasi Tola, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 221001

The basics

While the mood can certainly be somber at Manikarnika Ghat, and not all travelers will feel comfortable watching open-air cremations, it is a fascinating place where you can learn a lot about local culture and beliefs. You don’t have to step foot on Manikarnika Ghat to see it, though. Boat tours along the River Ganga give you an overview of all the ghats, and you can observe cremations at a good distance. Early-morning boat tours are especially peaceful, and a good idea during the hot months.

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Things to know before you go

  • Before being cremated, bodies are wrapped in white cloth shrouds and carried through the street by bearers. If you hear “Ram naam satya hai” being chanted behind you as you’re walking, step to the side as a body is on its way to Manikarnika Ghat.
  • While the ethics of photographing a stranger’s funeral or cremation are questionable, if you are taking photos around Manikarnika Ghat, keep a respectful distance from mourners.
  • While you will see some people bathing in and drinking the water, this isn’t recommended as the River Ganga in Varanasi is heavily polluted. Ashes and other cremation remains go straight into the river here.
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How to get there

The narrow, winding streets of old Varanasi can only be navigated on foot. The streets can be very confusing, and it’s likely you’ll get lost at some point. There are signs pointing the way to Manikarnika Ghat and other landmarks. If you do get lost looking for it, just head in the direction of the river and you’ll get there eventually. Alternatively, see it from a boat ride along the Ganga.

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When to get there

There’s activity on Varanasi’s ghats throughout the day and night, and it’s a good idea to come at different times of day to absorb the different atmospheres. Avoid wandering around Varanasi’s winding lanes after dark if you can avoid it, because although the city is mostly safe during the day, it’s less so at night.

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Dasaswamedh Ghat

Although Manikarnika Ghat is the main cremation site, it’s not the only ghat along the banks of the River Ganga. Another must-visit is Dasaswamedh Ghat, where the evening aarti (worship) ceremony takes place—an experience that all travelers to Varanasi should attend. While structures have been at Dasaswamedh Ghat for centuries, the ghat in its present form was constructed in the mid-to-late 18th century.

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