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Film notes-Death&Dying in Varanasi.doc

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McMaster University
Religious Studies
Sherry Smith

Film notes: “Death and Dying in Varanasi” (2006; 52 min.) Varanasi [also known as Kashi and Banaras]—the “great cremation ground”; holiest place on earth for Hindus; Shiva’s city The Ganges [in Hindi=Ganga] – sacred river; water is sacred; can’t get polluted More than 3,000 temples and shrines line alleyways in Varanasi Corpse wrapped in gold and saffron brought on bicycle rickshaw (or taxis, trucks, or carried) – about 100 bodies a day are brought to the cremation grounds (‘burning ghats’—most famous is called “Manikarnika Ghat”) One will go to heaven by being cremated in this city. “Life is full of hardship”; “each rebirth means more hardship” but death here means entry into heaven, release from cycle of birth and rebirth Oldest male relative normally lights the funeral pyre; relatives wait until body is burnt City has hospices where dying can be brought to die; “muktibhavan” (“house of deliverance”) – lodging is free of charge; no attempt to prolong life is made once the dying are brought to the hospices Constant chanting of God’s name Profiles of several Muktibhavan residents Descriptions of Varanasi as a special place of renewal; city configured as a sacred place arc of a circle; “panchakroshi” pathways
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