Masan Holi Celebration 2024: Bhasm Holi at Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi

Holi 2024: Subtitle: Embracing the Colors of Holi
Unique Masan Holi Celebration: Bhasm Holi at Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi
Unique Masan Holi Celebration: Bhasm Holi at Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi

Holi, the festival synonymous with colors and love, stands as one of India's most cherished celebrations. It's a time for joy and togetherness, where friends and family come together to revel in vibrant hues and delectable sweets. Signifying the advent of spring, Holi holds a special place in the hearts of many as it commemorates the eternal love shared between Radha and Krishna. Yet, in Varanasi, Holi takes on a unique significance, intertwined with the city's reverence for Lord Shiva. Here, three distinct variations of Holi are observed: the traditional Holi, Rangbhari Ekadashi, and Masan ki Holi (Bhasm Holi), each adding to the city's rich tapestry of cultural traditions.

Masan Holi: Lord Shiva's Pyre Ash Celebration in Varanasi

Following Rangbhari Ekadashi, devotees of Lord Shiva in Varanasi partake in a unique tradition called Masan or Bhasma Holi. Honoring ancient cultural customs, participants gather at the Manikarnika Ghat to engage in this distinctive celebration, where Lord Shiva is believed to play Holi with pyre ashes.

Masan Holi is a sacred and spiritual observance in Varanasi, adding a reverential dimension to the traditional festival of colors. This special event, where Lord Shiva is revered as the central figure, showcases the city's deep-rooted cultural and religious significance.

Varanasi's Masan Holi 2024 is set to be celebrated on Thursday, March 21st, 2024.

The celebration of Masan Holi follows Rangbhari Ekadashi, an occasion marking the reunion of Lord Shiva and Parvati. During this time, devotees gather in a procession to celebrate. The day after Rangbhari Ekadashi, Lord Shiva is believed to visit the cremation ground, or masaan, to engage in Holi festivities with his attendants, ghosts, and spirits residing there. This unique event, known as Masaan ki Holi, symbolizes the duality of life, representing Lord Shiva's engagement with both worldly illusions and his role as the ruler of the cremation ground, embodying themes of renunciation and detachment.

The Legend of Masan Holi: Lord Shiva's Sacred Celebration

  • Ash, known as "bhasma," holds immense significance for Lord Shiva in Hindu mythology.

  •  According to the mythological tale, on the second day of Rangbhari Ekadashi, Lord Shiva, accompanied by his divine entourage, visits the Manikarnika Ghat.

  •  There, he blesses devotees and engages in playing Holi, using ash as a symbolic representation of colored powder, known as Gulaal Swarup.

  • This ash is revered as a symbol of purity and devoutness towards Lord Shiva.

  •  Legend suggests that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati initially celebrated Holi with other deities on Rangbhari Ekadashi after their divine union.

  •  However, as certain supernatural beings favored by Lord Shiva, such as ghosts and vampires, do not participate in the festival, he returns to the Masan Ghat the next day.

  • Here, Lord Shiva joyously plays Holi with these beings, signifying his boundless acceptance and love for all creatures, whether visible or invisible.

The Significance of Manikarnika Ghat

  • Banaras, often known as the city of Moksha, encourages individuals to embrace death as a divine transition.

  •  Manikarnika Ghat, situated along the banks of the Ganges River, serves as the principal cremation ground in Banaras.

  • Here, amidst the solemnity of cremation, a unique tradition unfolds where the flames burn incessantly.

  •  It is believed that Lord Shiva, accompanied by his ghostly entourage, partakes in a celebration amidst the ashes at Manikarnika Ghat.

  •  Despite the potentially unsettling sight, Lord Shiva, adorned in a tiger skin and a garland of skulls, joyously plays with ash, the ultimate color symbolizing life.

  • Engrossed in the festivities, Lord Shiva indulges in bhang, a form of cannabis, seemingly unaffected by his surroundings.

Participants of Masan Holi Celebration

  • By tradition, locals, Naga Sadhus, and Aghoris converge at the Manikarnika Ghat to engage in the unique celebration of Masan Holi.

  • The festivities kick off with a grand aarti conducted at the Masaan temple situated near the Manikarnika Ghat.

  •  During the ceremony, devotees apply ashes from the burning pyres to the Shivling, accompanied by the rhythmic beats of the damru.

  •  The ambiance during the event exudes an intense energy, with pulsating vibrations that can be palpably felt, resonating through the participants' nerves right from the onset of the celebration.

India is renowned for its diverse traditions, vibrant cultures, and lively festivals, each offering a unique and enriching experience.

Holi stands out as one of the most jubilant festivals in India, heralding the arrival of the Spring season. It symbolizes new beginnings, where individuals cast aside personal grievances and embrace a fresh start filled with joy and camaraderie.

Celebrated with family and friends, Holi embodies the spirit of enjoyment, celebration, and happiness. It is a time to indulge in delectable treats like Ghujiaa and savor an array of delicious foods, adding to the festive fervor.


What is Masan Holi in Varanasi?


Mashan Holi, also known as Mahashivratri Holi, is a unique and ancient tradition celebrated in Varanasi, India. This tradition involves the ritual of playing Holi with ashes of cremated bodies, also known as "mashan" in Hindi.


Why do people play Masan Holi?


At the Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi, Shiva devotees play Holi with the ashes of the pyre, which is called Masan Holi. It is believed that on this day Bholenath blesses his devotees from the great crematorium. They reach Manikarnika and play Holi with gulal as well as pyre ashes.


Which Holi is played with ashes?


The tradition of playing with ashes, referred to as 'Masan Holi' or 'Chita ki Bhasm' Holi, is believed to be as old as the city itself. According to locals, Lord Shiva and Goddess Sati got married on Mahashivratri, and it was on Rangbhari Ekadashi that Lord Shiva brought her to Kashi for the first time.

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