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Masaan ki Holi 2024 – Playing Holi With Pyre Ashes

Priyanshu Singh
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Holi, the festival of colours and love, is one of the widely celebrated festivals in India. A day we celebrate with our friends and families by applying colours on each other and eating luscious sweets. It marks the beginning of spring each year. In most parts of India, it celebrates the eternal love of Radha and Krishna. Though here in Varanasi, even holi is associated with its favourite dweller, Lord Shiv. We observe three varieties of Holi in Varanasi: the regular Holi, Rangbhari Ekadashi, and Masaan ki Holi. While the first one is nothing different from what is celebrated nationwide, the latter two are Kashi’s very own versions.

Masaan Holi (Picture by Priyanshu Singh)

Rangbhari Ekadashi is celebrated five days before Holi to commemorate the reunion of Shiv and Parvati where Gods and his devotees join in the procession. A day after Rangbhari Ekadashi, Shiva visits masaan to celebrate the same holi with his Ganas(attendants), Ghosts, and spirits that live at the cremation ground which we call as Masaan ki Holi. The juxtaposition of these two events symbolizes how contradictory life can be. One reflects the engagement of Shiv with the world (Shakti) & its Moh Maya. While the other is completely dedicated to the Shiv who is a destroyer & ruler of shamshan, sanyas & renunciation from the world.  

As per the traditions, locals, Naga Sadhus and Aghoris flock to Manikarnika ghat to play Holi with ashes of burning pyres. The festival starts with a grand aarti at the Masaan temple located near Manikarnika ghat. Devotees smear the Shivling with ashes surrounded by the roaring sound of damru. The energy gets so high that you can feel it pulsating in your nerves as soon as the event starts.

Masaan Holi (Picture by Priyanshu Singh)

Banaras, also known as the city of Moksha, make people embrace death as a blessing. Here the fire burns perennially on the ghats of river Ganga. Manikarnika Ghat, the main cremation ground at Banaras, witnesses this unique tradition amidst the gloom of cremation. The sight of Shiv with his bhoot ganas (ghostly hosts) dancing and celebrating with the ashes can be disconcerting. But the Lord of the cremation ground, wrapped in tiger skin, adorned with mundmala (the garland of skulls) playing with the last colour of life (i.e., the colour of ash), high on bhang (cannabis) is unaware of his surroundings and enjoys to the fullest.

Masaan Holi Date 2024

Masan ki Holi will be celebrated on the 21st of March this year (2024). Starting from Mahashamshan nath temple situated in Manikarnika ghat at 10 a.m.

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