The Ganges River is the sacred river for Hindus. Its waters are considered pure and purifying; it absorbs impurities and flushes them away. It is also the vehicle to heaven as the crossing point for all beings from earth to heaven. Those who die on the banks of the Ganges and are cremated at Varanasi achieve salvation.

Along the Ganges' western shores at Varanasi there are areas called ghats that serve as access points to the river. Many use the ghats to bathe in the holy river water, others offer rituals of worship, and others hold cremation rites.

The eldest son, or a male mourner, or a priest“ called the lead cremator or lead mourner – then bathes himself and his hair is cut leaving only one strand before leading the cremation ceremony. He circumambulates the dry wood pyre with the body, says a eulogy, places sesame seeds or rice on the deceased's chest, hand and legs. He sprinkles the body and the pyre with ghee, then draws three lines signifying Yama (deity of the dead), Kala (time, deity of cremation) and the dead.

Prior to lighting the pyre, an earthen pot is filled with water, and the lead mourner circles the body with it, before lobbing the pot over his shoulder so it breaks near the head. Once the pyre is ablaze, the lead mourner and the closest relatives may circumambulate the burning pyre one or more times.

The ceremony is concluded by the ritual piercing of the burning skull with a stave in order to release the spirit. The cold collected ash from the cremation is later consecrated to the nearest river or sea.

- Wikipedia