Varanasi is called Kashi( The city of light) and people come here from far off places in search of spirituality. Varanasi is considered city of temples and various temples offer a glimpse of rich cultural heritage of city. One of the strange rituals is offering the unprecedented respect and offerings to the dead passing by every now and then in the narrow streets of the city .
It is considered that the if someone dies in Kashi he attains the Moksha (final salvation) and does not return to the cycle of birth and death again. When the person attains Moskha he becomes one with supreme consciousness and becomes Shiva himself/herself.
People bow down to the dead and offer flowers on the dead body and procession. It is considered and act of worship of Shiva only as anyone dying here become one with Lord Shiva.
Also dead body is bathed o Ganges water and is offered new clothes. and offered flowers , incense and other pooja articles. People say ‘Ram nam satya hai’ (Ram’s name is ultimate truth”). It is said that Lord Shiva renders Tarak mantra to the dead at the time of cremation. People bow down to dead and chant Har Har Mahadev while folding their hands in respect.It is said that the worship of dead bodies began from Kashi only.
The reason behind this practice is mentioned in Mahabharata. In the chapter called ‘Samvart Marutiya prasang’ . Once upon a time King Marut wanted to perform a yagna. He went to his Guru Brihaspati to give invitation for the same purpose. However Guru Brihaspati was busy in some other yagna and couldn’t oblige King Marut.
King Marut was returning sad . On the way he met Devarshi Narada. He asked him about his problem. King told him everything. Naradji told him not to loose hope and advised him to meet younger brother of Brihaspati- Rishi Samvart. King Maruta asked him about his dwelling place. Devarshi Narad explained him that Samvart Rishi doesn’t stay at one place but he always visits to Kashi to have Darshan of Lord Shiva and stays in a very strange attire. It very difficult to recognize him thus. Once he has the Darshan of Lord Shiva he immediately comes out of Kashi . However he could be recognized by one of his very peculiar habit. If any person who seems to be going towards Vishwanath temple but finds a dead body in between and bows down offers his prayers and returns, he would be Samvart Rishi.
Narad Rishi also told him that, ” Once you recognize him,follow him silently and once he is a secluded place, offer your respects and tell him about your wish to do yagna. You will have to request and persuade him hard to get him agree to your request though.”
Naradji disappeared after explaining King Marut. King Marut went to Kashi immediately after this. King Maruta used tact and placed a dead body on the main gate of the Kashi. In every early morning an Avadhooat (Aghori) started entering city through main gate . He saw the dead body on the gate only . he did Shashtang Dandawat Pranam (Bow down , prostrating on ground) and worshiped him with many Strotas(hymns) and started to return, Kind concluded that it is Samvart Rishi only.
He followed him from thereon. After sometime Avadhoot noticed that someone is following him,he didn’t like it and started throwing dusts and pebels on the King. King was well explained about all this by Narad Rishi and kept on following him. Smavart Risi who was disguised as Avadhhoota asked him the reason for following. King explained everything and his wish to perform yagna with him with great humility. After earnest requests and persuasion Rishi agreed and King’s yagna was successfully completed shortly after.
This story explains that the tradition of paying obeisance to dead and offering prayers is very old . While it is also mentioned in Jabali Upanishad . It is said that Shav(Dead) becomes Shiva in Kashi. As Lord Shiva renders Tarak mantra to Shava himself. It becomes worthy of Moksha itself after receiving Tarak mantra. And after attaining Moksha the soul becomes Shiva itself. That is why the worship of dead in Kashi is going on since ages and still continuing.
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