24 Mar 2024

Varanasi's Chita-Bhasma Holi transcends usual festivities; Lord Shiva himself initiated tradition of Masaan Holi

In the heart of Varanasi, amidst the ancient alleys and reverberating chants, lies a tradition that transcends the vibrant hues of typical Holi festivities. Known as Chita-Bhasma Holi, this ritual holds a sacred place in the hearts of devotees, encompassing a spiritual journey that goes beyond the ordinary.

Devotees from far and wide gather along the banks of the sacred Ganges at Manikarnika Ghat. Among them are revered sadhus and Aghoris. They converge to partake in this extraordinary celebration. Here, where the eternal cycle of life and death intertwines, they engage in a unique form of Holi, one that involves the ashes from the cremation pyres.

A profound homage to the divine

Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of Varanasi, this ritual is a profound homage to the divine. Followers of Shiva, embracing his dual aspects as the destroyer and rejuvenator, adorn themselves with the sacred ashes. 

Through this act, they celebrate the eternal dance of life and death, expressing their unwavering devotion to the Lord who is believed to grace the cremation grounds during this sacred time.

In Varanasi, where spirituality permeates every corner, Holi takes on a mystical essence. While the rest of the country celebrates with vibrant colors and joyous revelry, in Kashi, the city of Shiva, Holi is transformed into a solemn yet deeply spiritual affair. 

Ashes of pyre become the medium to commune with the divine

Here, the ashes of the pyre become the medium through which devotees commune with the divine, participating in a ritual believed to be shared by Lord Shankar himself and the mystical beings that inhabit the crematorium.

Before the commencement of Chita Bhasma Holi, Baba Masan Nath, the guardian of the cremation grounds, is worshipped with elaborate rituals. As the echoes of 'Har Har Mahadev' reverberate through the air and drums resound, the Holi festivities begin, enveloping the entire cremation ground in a sacred aura.

Lord Shiva began the ritual of Masaan Holi

Legend has it that Lord Shiva initiated the tradition of Masaan Holi. On the auspicious day of Rangbhari Ekadashi, after bringing Mother Parvati to Kashi following their celestial union, Lord Shankar engaged in the joyous revelry of Holi with colors and gulal. However, unable to partake in the festivities with the ethereal beings inhabiting the crematorium, he returned the following day to play Holi with them, thus initiating the tradition that continues to this day.

This unique celebration, steeped in myth and spirituality, captivates not only the residents of Kashi but also draws the fascination of visitors from around the globe. It stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of devotion and the mystical allure of Varanasi, where every tradition holds a deeper significance, weaving together the threads of faith and eternity.

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