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Holi in Varanasi begins on the day of “Rangbhari Ekadashi.”

(Photo: Vikrant Dubey/The Quint)

In Pics: Playing Holi With Ashes From Funeral Pyres in Varanasi

Shiva followers at a ghat in Varanasi play Holi in front of burning pyres, often picking up ashes from them.

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Holi in Varanasi begins on the day of "Rangbhari Ekadashi." It is believed that on this day, Baba Vishwanath (Lord Shiva) brought Parvati back to their marital home. His followers, forming the "Gauna Baaraat" use "abir or gulaal" to play Holi with much enthusiasm. The next day, it is believed that Lord Shiva traveled to Manikarnika ghat in Varanasi, where he used ashes from pyres to play Holi.

Even today, this practise is prevalent in Varanasi's Manikarnika ghaat. Here, followers groove to the beats of the damru – a drum associated with Shiva – and play Holi in front of burning funeral pyres, often picking up ashes from them.

On Tuesday, following the aarti at the cremation ground, "Aughad" saints could be spotted having a great time playing Holi with ashes. Tourists visiting the ghat were struck by the bizarre nature of this Holi celebration. On one side, bodies were being cremated and there was gloom, while on the other people were playing holi with joy and vigour.

According to tradition, it is also believed that those who die in Varanasi attain freedom from the cycle of life and birth. This is supposed to happen by the grace of Lord Shiva himself.

(This story was originally published on Hindi Quint.)

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