• Death beyond Death

John Stratton Hawley and Vasudha Narayanan

in The Life of Hinduism

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2006 | ISBN: 9780520249134
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520940079 | DOI:
• Death beyond Death

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Death can be induced—a death to self that makes a man a renouncer, a sannyasi. This chapter chronicles this sort of death ritual, describing the radical reconstruction of personhood that made it possible to become a sannyasi: ritual death on a full-moon midnight in Banaras's main cremation ground. Brahminical texts position this act of renunciation as the beginning of the fourth and final stage of life, suggesting that one has to have lived through the rest and performed all the duties pertaining thereunto before one has a life truly worth renouncing. For millennia, Hindus have believed that to die in Banaras, city of Shiva and the Ganges, is to secure for oneself the best chance of a favorable rebirth—or, better yet, release from the cycle of birth and death altogether.

Keywords: death ritual; Hinduism; sannyasi; Banaras; renunciation

Chapter.  5689 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Hinduism

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