'The smell of death and the smell of life': authenticity, anxiety and perceptions of death at Varanasi's cremation grounds

Nitasha Sharma, Jillian Rickly
2019 Journal of Heritage Tourism  
This paper contributes to an understanding of existential authenticity and existential anxiety in tourism studies through an investigation of tourists' perceptions of death, the Self, and 'others' at the Hindu cremation grounds in Varanasi, India. Encounters with death at dark tourism sites serve as reminders of one's own mortality affecting one's attitude towards death, perception of self, and even challenging one's personal values. Existentialists assert that anxiety is a condition of
more » ... ondition of existential authenticity, and therefore moments of the existentially authentic experience are not always pleasurable. This paper argues that confrontation with death, as exemplified by the Aghori rituals and the cremation grounds in Varanasi, offers tourists an opportunity to examine the inevitability that life will end and to engage with this existential predicament and anxiety in an embodied sense, thereby pushing some of them towards life changes in the pursuit of existential authenticity. ARTICLE HISTORY
doi:10.1080/1743873x.2019.1610411 fatcat:opbs2dbhhnghheam3cuhftjvau