We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Shamshan Ghat?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At CulturalWorld.org, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A shamshan ghat or cremation ground is a platform designed for the cremation of bodies by members of the Hindu faith; Sikhs also use shamshan ghats. Typically, a shamshan ghat is located next to a river, so that the ashes can be cast out and floated away in accordance with Hindu tradition. Many major cities in India have shamshan ghats for the use of their citizens, and such structures are also located at prominent locations along major rivers, such as the Ganges.

Members of the Hindu faith have been cremating their dead for centuries, in accordance with their religious beliefs. By tradition, bodies are cremated as quickly as possible after death, typically within six hours, and they are handled only by the family of the deceased. Fire is believed to be cleansing, and it will help prepare the soul for future journeys.

The word “ghat” means “stairs,” and it is a reference to the steps built up along river banks to make the river easier to access. A shamshan ghat is typically located at or very near such a set of stairs, and in some regions, there may be a row of such structures, allowing people to carry out multiple funerals at once. The bodies are shrouded in white and ochre cloth, decorated with flowers, and laid out on pyres of wood soaked in ghee for burning to carry out a traditional open-air cremation.

If possible, the son of the deceased lights the fire on the shamshan ghat, as a final act of love for his parent. Once the body has burned to ashes, the ashes are scattered and the family distributes alms and food to the poor before embarking on a series of mourning rituals which can last for two weeks or more.

In some regions, use of a shanshan ghat is prohibitively expensive, and Hindus may be cremated in crematoriums, or even buried. Many crematoriums which offer Hindu cremation allow family members to place a symbolic pot of ghee into the retort with the body, representing the traditional ghee used to start the fire at a riverside cremation.

Some people find the practice of riverside cremation at a shamshan ghat unpleasant or abhorrent, although when it is carried out properly, it is perfectly sanitary. For family members, it is also an important and cathartic act which allows them to honor the dead in the same way that members of their faith have done for centuries. In areas where shamshan ghats are scarce or attempts are made to ban them, activists sometimes step forward to preserve them for future generations.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld.org researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments
By anon163989 — On Mar 30, 2011

In tamizh "kattu" means stairs and it is "ghat" in hindi, so, here by adding "gas" to "kattu" it is pronounced as "ghat". In tamizh, "sudukaadu" means the graveyard. here, kaadu means forest or ground where the dead bodies are burnt, "sudu" means to burn.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
CulturalWorld.org, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

CulturalWorld.org, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.