Theology of Karman: merit, death and release in the case of Varanasi, India


  • Erik Reenberg Sand University of Copenhagen


Pilgrims and pilgrimages -- Hinduism, Hinduism -- Ritual, Hindu theology, Death, Sacred space, Vārānasi (Uttar Pradesh, India), Hindu literature, Gods and goddesses, Hindu


In this article, the focus is on the question as to what motives the pilgrims may have for performing pilgrimage, and, in doing this, the author deals especially with the Hindu tradition, namely with pilgrimage to Varanasi, Banaras or Kāśī, which is often considered the Hindu sacred city par excellence by both Hindus and Westerners alike.The sacred power of Varanasi has three sources: the eternal presence of Śiva from the time of creation, the cremation ghāṭand the presence of the river Gaṅgā. Furthermore, we found that the most characteristic thing about the power of Varanasi is its connection with death and its power to confer on the pilgrim the fruit of complete release from the circle of birth, death, and rebirth, something which is normally the privilege of the adherents of ascetic and other non-worldly systems. This feature is still reflected in the fact that many elderly people come to Varanasi in order to die and get cremated here, and many people from the surrounding areas still take the bodies of their dead relatives to Varanasi for cremation.



How to Cite

Reenberg Sand, E. (2010). Theology of Karman: merit, death and release in the case of Varanasi, India. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 22, 316–333.