Stumbling along in a daze past beggars, goats in vests and all types of different faeces littering the concrete I accidentally and unfortunately find my way to Manikarnika, one of the two burning ghats. The smell of burning sandalwood fills my nose and I immediately feel ill. We’d been trying to avoid this area. There are four fires burning at the moment, and I can see a foot sticking out of one. A young man walks up to me and tells me in a stern and aggressive tone that there will be no photographs. I assure him that the last thing I want to do is take photographs. Before I can stop him, he starts telling me the story of Varanasi and the rituals of the burning ghat. Two hundred people are burned here every day, 24 hours a day, within 24 hours of their death. They do this in order to escape the endless torture of reincarnation, he tells me. First the uncovered, painted body is marched through the narrow streets of the old city with grieving male family members chanting “Ram nam satya hai”. The holy fire Shiva is said to have bought down to earth thousands of year ago then has to be purchased along with holy wood: sandal, mango or other types of wood which mask the smell of burning flesh. When the fire has burnt out what is left of the corpse then gets thrown in the holy Ganges by the oldest son. The family then has to pay the owner of the ghat, who also has the right to fish out corpses and keep any jewellery or gold teeth the dead might have been burned with. Children under two years old don’t get burnt as they don’t need purification. The same applies to pregnant mothers, anyone killed by the bite of a cobra, holy men and lepers. Instead they get chucked straight into the river, weighted down with ‘holy’ stones which also cost a pretty penny. As my self imposed guide tells me this, I see the foot sticking out of the fire swell and turn around 180 degrees. In the pile of ashes next to it, a cow munches on a wreath of marigolds that escaped the fire.