Death Guest House - Mukti Bhawan
Photographer: Divyakant Solanki
Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan is a charity-run a place that offers lodging to those who wish to give up their last breath in the holy city of Varanasi (also known as Banaras or Kashi) to achieve Moksha, a Hindu term for enlightenment or release. There is a saying in Sanskrit, Kashyam Marnata Mukti, which means that one will get Moksha if he dies in Kashi. The city is situated on the banks of river Ganges, one of the holiest sites in Hinduism and Uttar Pradesh for Hindu pilgrims from around the world. Many Hindus approaching the ends of their lives come to the sacred city in the belief that they might achieve Moksha by dying and having their ashes scattered in the Ganges River in Varanasi. To attain this salvation, thousands of people travel to Varanasi to die. The so-called ‘death hotel' has 10 rooms for guests, a temple where they have special prayers three times a day, an office room and small quarters for its priests. Guests who are not medically fit and within days of dying are allowed to take shelter in the house for two weeks with minimal charges. There is a condition to die within two weeks; if the health of the guest improves they are asked to move on. The house offers the service for free to those who cannot afford it. The price of the stay is 20 INR or 0.25 euro per day, a fare which covers electricity and some basic costs. So far, 14,835 people have checked in to the guesthouse until 10 October 2019, most of whom have attained Moksha. The main motive of running this Mukti Bhawan is to give shelter to people who want to achieve Moksha in Varanasi but who don't have a place to stay in their final days. People from all castes, religions, and countries are welcome. As there are no bookings, the Mukti Bhawan is not a hotel, and the rooms are given on availability. The house has four employees and a manager to take care of the Bhawan. The place is open for tourism. They do not take any donations from anyone. The trust does not do any kind of marketing or advertising for the house; people become aware of it by word of mouth.