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Holi with Ashes of the Dead in Varanasi – Holi with Pyre Ash at Kashi Manikarnika Cremation Ghat

Holi with ashes of the dead in Varanasi is observed in Phalgun month, couple of days before Dhulandi or Holi with colors. It is held at the famous Manikarnika Cremation Ghat in Kashi. In 2020, it will be held on March 26. This unique Holi in Banaras is played with 'chita bhasma' (ashes from pyres) and red gulals amid the burning pyres. The tradition is mentioned in the Skanda Purana and other scriptures.

The tradition of playing holi amidst burning pyres is a very ancient tradition. Symbolically it proves that death is not fearful, and dying in Banaras means attaining moksha. 

Manikarnika Cremation Ghat Holi is also believed to be the Holi of Shiva ganas, who missed the chance to celebrate Holi with him on Rangbhari Ekadashi day.

Holi in Varanasi begins on Rangbhari Ekadashi. The belief is that Shiva and Goddess Parvati comes back to home after their divine wedding on the Rangbhari Ekadasi and this ritual is known as Gauna.

The very next day Shiva goes to Mahasmashana to celebrate Holi with his ganas sprinkling chita bhasma.

Before celebrating Holi at Manikarnika Cremation Ghat, devotees make offering at Baba Mahashmashan Nath Mandir with bhang, ganja, fruits and flowers.

Traditionally the festivity begins in the noon and continues till evening.

Holi with Pyre Ash at Kashi Manikarnika Cremation Ghat is observed on Phalgun Shukla Paksha Dwadasi day or the 12th day during the waxing phase of moon in Phalgun month as per traditional Hindu lunar calendar followed in North India.