To house those wanting to die, all sorts of hotels and lodging have sprung up over the years. One such place is the Mumukshu Bhawan (Home for the Ailing) established in 1920. Locally known as the Moksha Bhawan (Salvation Home), the elderly settle here, stubbornly waiting for death. Some, for decades.
A frail 96-year-old lady, Urmila Devi, checks into a dimly-lit hostel, a red building a little older than herself, in the holy town of Varanasi. The old lady from a small village in South India can barely walk but manages to get in with the help of a walking stick. Why would someone like her come all the way from down south to Varanasi, one would wonder. Like a thousand others, Devi is here to die. Yes, you read that right. Having lost all her close ones, her last wish has been to die in the holy city of Varanasi, after which she hopes to attain Moksha – freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
The Moksha Bhavan or Salvation House has 12 rooms along with a small temple and place for the priests.
Varanasi, the quaint, old town located on the banks of the River Ganges, is considered to be one of the holiest places in India. People from all over the country, and even abroad, visit the town to wash off their sins and attain salvation.
However, living at the Moksha Bhavan comes with its own terms and conditions. Guests cannot stay there beyond two weeks. If they do not die within this duration, they are politely asked to move out to make way for other 'dying' guests.
Hostel manager Bhairav Nath Shukla has been praying for people's salvation for over 44 years. Interestingly, he can even predict when a person is likely to die. Shukla and his family are now used to the dead bodies and the mourning relatives around them. While he prays for their salvation, his kids playfully have fun in the same compound.
According to a Reuters report, 14,578 people have checked in the hostel as of July this year. While most of them have attained moksha, the others, who couldn't die, had to leave disheartened.
Bharat Singh and his wife have come from the eastern state of Bihar with their old and suffering aunt. "It's been two days that we have been waiting and we expect that she will die within two or three days. It was her wish to die in Kashi and we have got her here," he says.
Eighty- year -old Manbudh Tripathi has been staying at Mumukshu for the past 17 years. "I have been waiting for the day to come when I will leave this world never to return. My sons send me money every month but it has been more than 10 years since I last saw them," he says.
"More than 300 people stay in Mumukshu and most of them are above 60. They come here to die," says Manish Pandey, 43, the manager. "In Varanasi death is not mourned but considered a blessing." he says.
Mumukshu charges a minimal rent for accommodation and electricity. Those who cannot afford are also allowed to stay.
Kashi Labh Mukti Bhawan is another home where you come to die. But unlike Mumukshu, Mukti Bhawan houses only those who are expected to die within 15 days of admission.
A fee of 20 Indian rupees (less than half a dollar) is charged for those who can pay. It is free for the poor. "We even help the poor to buy wood and other materials needed for cremation. Moreover, after being here for so long, I can easily calculate when a person will die," says Shukla.
Moksha or Mukti Bhawan (Salvation House) gets around 800 people yearly from around the country who come to spend their last days in Kashi. Some non-residential Indians too have come. On an average people are allowed to stay for 15 days. For some it could be two or three days or even a month till they die.
Images Source: Aljazeera
[divider scroll_text=”Back To Top”]