[VoxSpace Life] Kashi’s Mukti Bhawan : Where People Check-in To Die

The Mystery That Is Death

It is a common saying that people are unaware of two things – the exact time of his/her birth and a prior knowledge of their death. While science has made possible the former, the latter is indeed a matter of great wonder – how is one to have a prior knowledge of his/her own death? To be honest, no one really wishes to die or think about death while living. But, as it turns out, there are innumerable people across India who wait for their death. While many do so out of their sheer apathy for life, there are lots of people who do so just to attain moksha or salvation.

Interestingly, although the concept of hell and heaven is there in Hinduism, people do not wish a place in heaven on their deathbed – all they desire is the attainment of salvation or, as we call it, moksha. Perhaps it is for this reason that Kashi even boasts of a hostel where people check-in to die and attain moksha. The place is known as Mukti Bhawan.

Kashi – The Holiest Place In Hinduism

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Kashi or Benares is widely deemed as the holiest place in Hinduism. Numerous mythologies associated with the place makes Kashi a microcosm of Indian civilization and culture. The place attracts not only hundreds and thousands of Hindus from across the world but people across all cultures and societies hurdle down each year to experience Kashi’s innate magic.

Among all the wonderful temples, architectural wonders and holy chaos of the city, one thing which never fails to attract the wonder of all is Kashi’s crematoriums, specifically the Manikarnika Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat. While the Harishchandra Ghat is a comparatively smaller crematorium, Manikarnika Ghat is one of the most sacred crematoriums in India and is believed to have been created by Lord Shiva himself. It is indeed awe-inspiring to know that the pyres never cease to burn at the Manikarnika Ghat – after all, it is known to be the gateway to attain moksha.

Hundreds Of Aged People Come To Kashi To Die

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image courtesy: DNA India

In a religion where people’s last wish remains to attain moksha over anything else, it is quite obvious that hundreds and thousands of people from across the country and even abroad come over to Kashi in their last days. While some can attain the luxury of hotels, most of the people who come here to “die” cannot afford the same. And it is for this reason the hostel called “Mukti Bhawan” came into existence.

Built around 55 years back, Mukti Bhawan is a non-profit hostel that houses people who wish to breathe his/her last in the holy land of Kashi. A modern man may assume that the hostel would incur huge losses with most of the rooms wrapped in spider nets, the reality is the stark opposite. With around 12 rooms and a temple in its premises, the Mukti Bhawan is one of the most “sought after” places in Kashi. Such is its demand that manager Bhairav Nath Shukla has to let in a person for just about a fortnight – if he or she manages to pass away within that period frame, it’s well and good; otherwise, one has to vacate the room to make space for another dying person.

Mukti Bhawan Provides All Basic Amenities And Facility Of A Priest

image courtesy: projectfuel.in

Mukti Bhawan or the Salvation Hotel has all the basic amenities for its residents. In fact, it also has facilities of a priest-on-call to perform the last rites of people. While many dying people come in with their friends or family, some people arrive at Mukti Bhawan’s rugged steps alone – with no money or means to sustain. They are generally provided shelter for free and their last rites are also done free. And for those who can afford to pay, a daily charge of Rs 20 is levied daily for each room.

Time Flies But Beliefs Never Change

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Entries in the log book of Mukti Bhavan

The fact that Mukti Bhawan gets “guests” from not just different parts of our country but from across the world – there have been NRI guests in the past – pinpoint to the conclusion that no matter how modern the world is tending to be, certain core beliefs are hard to change. A glimpse of the same can be seen in the way the Mukti Bhawan never seems to be out of business.

Another important aspect to highlight here is that the people who come here to have the last rites of their near and dear ones done are still reluctant to use electricity to burn pyres. Thousands of kilograms of wood is used every day to burn the pyres. The case is same not just in Manikarnika Ghat but even in Harishchandra Ghat, where electric crematoriums are lying in utter negligence.

Now the question remains: Are we, the modern Indian population, still ruled by our beliefs and traditions? While the theory about attaining moksha and Mukti Bhawan is absolutely awe-inspiring in today’s time, the other side of the coin is tainted with dark colours. What will happen to Kashi, the place which presents moksha to Hindus, in future if people rampantly misuse the natural resources and pollute their own Ganga Maiya? There’s perhaps no answer to this.