Afterlife and Fertility in Varanasi

  • Katharina Kakar


Reflecting on death and the afterlife in the Indian context, one of the holiest cities in India immediately comes to mind: Varanasi. It is a city connected to death and the liberation of the soul. It is known to be Shiva’s dwelling place—a god who has the power to destroy and to recreate. This essay looks at the death rituals practiced on the riverbank of the city, and analyzes how deeply fertility and death are connected in Varanasi’s sacred geography.


Fertility Death rituals Shiva Aghori Varanasi 


  1. Asthana, V. N. P. S. (n.d.). Aghor at a glance. Varanasi: Krim Kund Varanasi.Google Scholar
  2. Bau, C., & Gutschow, N. (2006). Shiva’s places: Lingas and rituals in benares. Uenzen: Peter Hess.Google Scholar
  3. Eck, D. L. (1981). India’s “tirthas”: “Crossings” in sacred geography. History of Religions, 20(4), 323–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Eck, D. L. (1983). Banaras: City of light. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  5. Feller, D. (2004). Sanskrit epics. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.Google Scholar
  6. Filippi, G. G. (2005). Mrtyu: Concept of death in Indian traditions. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld.Google Scholar
  7. Gupta, R. P. (1995). The Kina Rami: Aughars and king in the age of cultural context. In D. N. Lorenzen (Ed.), Bhakti religion in North India: Community identity and political action. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  8. Gutschow, N., & Michaels, A. (2005). Handling death: The dynamics of death and ancestor rituals among the Newars of Bhaktapur, Nepal. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.Google Scholar
  9. Parry, J. (1982). Sacrificial death and the necrophagous ascetic. In M. Bloch & J. Parry (Eds.), Death and the regeneration of life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Parry, J. (1985). Death and digestion: The symbolism of food and eating in North-Indian mortuary rites. Man, 20(4), 612–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Parry, J. (1994). Death in Benares. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Pathak, R., & Humes, C. A. (1993). Lolark Kund: Sun and Shiva worship in the city of light. In B. R. Hertel & C. A. Humes (Eds.), Living banaras. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  13. Suri, R., & Pitchford, D. B. (2010). Death as teacher in the Aghori sect. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 29(1), 128–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Svoboda, R. E. (1986). Aghora: At the left hand of God. New Delhi: Rupa.Google Scholar
  15. Twain, M. (1980). Following the equator: A journey around the world. Hartford: American Publishing Company.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pulwaddo PequenoBenaulim, SalceteIndia

Personalised recommendations