Check-inn into Death Hotel In Varanasi

12th Nov 2019
Photo of Check-inn into Death Hotel In Varanasi by Pallavi Agarwal
Day 1

Sita Devi, a 95 year old widow has travelled ten hours with her entire family, lying in the Ambulance, to arrive at Kashi Labh Mukti Bhavan. About 22 years ago, her husband had died in this very hotel in Varanasi and now her wish to do the same is about to be fulfilled.

Kashi Labh Mukti Bhavan is one of the many ‘death hotels’ of Varanasi. More than 55years old, Mukti Bhavan provides accommodation to those who wish to breathe their last in Varanasi. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? The fact that 14,849-odd people have died at Mukti Bhavan ever since its inception might help you grasp the reality of this phenomenon.

Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan

Photo of Check-inn into Death Hotel In Varanasi by Pallavi Agarwal

Hindus believe that the one who dies in Varanasi attains moksha, or salvation. Dying in Varanasi is believed to help the soul break out of the endless cycle of birth and death. Though these beliefs are highly debatable, every year, hordes of believers flock to this holy city, hoping to attain redemption in death here. Most of these are old, retired people who are expecting death and wish to embrace it in the holy land of Kashi (Varanasi).

Photo of Check-inn into Death Hotel In Varanasi by Pallavi Agarwal

Mukti Bhavan is one of the unique ‘death hotels’ that have existed in Varanasi to help fulfil the wishes of these believers. It has 10 rooms but ,manager of Mukti Bhavan is known to set up beds in the corridors in case there are more guests. He firmly believes that dying in Varanasi is a privilege and hence it must be celebrated, not mourned.

Lodging at Mukti Bhavan comes with a set of unique conditions: guests are given a maximum of two weeks to die and if they don’t die then they are gently asked to move out. Sometimes, Management extends  guests’ stays if he thinks their death is near. Eerily enough, he claims to be able to predict these deaths, based on his experience of almost 44 years.

Photo of Check-inn into Death Hotel In Varanasi by Pallavi Agarwal

A regular day at this early 20th-century brick and plaster building begins with an elaborate four-hour ritual performed by the priests in the Bhavan’s temple. An intensely devotional atmosphere is created with bells ringing and loud chanting of Sanskrit shlokas (holy verses) and bhajans (devotional songs). The vigour of the morning aarti (ritual of worship) soon dies down and the Bhavan regains its sombre mood. The poorly-lit interiors and its dull ambience are oddly fitting for this house of death. The relatives of the dying guests are also provided with accommodation and basic amenities at this modest hotel as they internally battle the dilemma of waiting for their loved ones to die. A meagre fee of INR 20 is charged for those who can pay. The poor are accommodated for free. “However, I make sure I admit only genuine cases. Harsh as it may sound, we are not a place people can come to just because they have nowhere else to go”, Manager said.

A visit to Mukti Bhavan is a revelation of sorts, helping you put your own life in perspective. It influences you into accepting the reality of death and in the process, teaches you a thing or two about life