Monday, 13 February 2012

When The River Is The Grave


Cremation at Pashupatinath, the holiest place for the Hindu people in Nepal

A father says goodbye to his sixteen years old son, whose body lies on the ground (top photo), before taking him to the pyre and set it on fire.
The ceremony is not completed until what's left of the body is thrown into the water, but I left before it happened, the smell was too intense.
*
My contribution to Julie's Taphophile Tragics

29 comments:

diane b said...

Ugh! I think I prefer a western burial but I guess its what you are accustomed to. Surely not a healthy habit throwing bodies into the river.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I have to agree with diane b this does not sound like I would enjoy this sort of event! Diane

Marias Teater said...

Heavy experience - I understand you left for your reason.

Lindsay said...

Many years ago I witnessed a number of funeral pyres in Varanasi, India, on the banks of the River Ganges. The body is given back to Mother Ganges and hence Mother Earth. There was nothing unpleasant about it at all, except for the grief of the families.

Julie said...

*Gulp* ... what a moving series of images, Jose. Isn't it fascinating the varying death ceremonies that humans have created. I understand the reactions of the other commenters, and your own walking away. I have no idea how I would react. I am in no position to criticise the beliefs of others. It is little different fron native americans leaving bodies on platforms for birds and other predators. Here in the West we simply sanitise and hide the disposal of the dead. I think that poor father would have had to incinerate his young son for a very long time.

Have you any idea what the 'Cornea Excision Centre' is? Are eyes routinely removed from the deceased? How do they keep them medically 'healthy'?

What an astounding contribution to Taphophile Tragics. Thank you.

JM said...

@Lindsay:
Mixed feelings made me feel unconfortable, especially because I felt like an intruder taking photos of a scene that should have remained private, in my opinion.
I didn't make it to Varanasi when I visited India, but I really would love to. It must be something!

@Julie:
I was so focused on the ritual that I don't even remember if I noticed the 'Cornea Excision Center' ad there or not, so I didn't ask about it and therefore, I can not answer your question, but I know they don't remove the eyes from the deceased.

Lowell said...

Omigod! What a post. What photos. I can imagine you left...because I couldn't imagine staying! Where are all the mourners? Looks like just a few casual observers.

You have certainly seen some interesting things in your various treks about the world!

DeeBee L. said...

Quite impressive for us westerners as our cremations are done behind closed doors in crematorium.
Different cultures, different ways of saying goodbye to our loved ones and committing their souls to God!

Halcyon said...

That's really intense. It's interesting to see the different life and death rituals of other cultures. But in the end I think we all deal with grief the same way. Sad that this man lost a son.

Cezar and Léia said...

A great reportage!
Léia

Nicole said...

I can see why you might feel like an intruder but if given permission to photograph this sacred event I would feel honored to the fullest degree. Of course this is coming from a student of funeral studies with keen interest in home funerals.

Sylvia K said...

I agree, it is indeed so interesting to see/learn of the different life and death rituals of other cultures. The grief, however, is the same in all countries and it can only be heartbreaking to lose a son long before his time. Wonderful post, as always.

Sylvia

tapirgal said...

I remember a few small sepia photos from my grandmother's trip there a century ago. That's when I learned about this costom, bizarre to us, but really not so odd. Of course, nobody mentioned the smell. Thanks for that, JM :-/

NixBlog said...

Quite an experience. Amazing the differences in customs around the disposal (or otherwise!) of the dead around the world. Wearing my medical hat, I concur that this is not the most hygienic or environmentally friendly way of disposing the dead, but ancient traditions die hard (sorry pun not intended!).

In Varanasi they have a real problem with shortage of wood for the funeral pyres and the tradition of using sandalwood for the cremation of the dead rich destroyed all of the available trees around the city.

Pat said...

Powerful moving series of photos.

Ann said...

I'm surprised you were so close. I've seen the burning ghats in Varanasi but my shots were too far away to be useable for this meme. I understand what you say about feeling intrusive. I find this tradition absolutely fascinating and no more shocking than any other funeral practice, except perhaps that people bathe in the river. I'm hoping someone can feature sky burial.

Andrea said...

JM, i am really envious of your travels. Before i reached the end i am already thinking about the smell, then you said it! I read all the comments, and i remember the book about Tibet where they leave the dead on rocks and the vultures have privileges on the internal organs, the best part being for the leader of the flock. I think the practice of cremation these days are just improvements of the old style, and maybe because India strongly adheres to their culture, they still do it. Look at the monkeys and the cows, and of course the rats there! It is incredible and amazing. I can't imagine how it is like for the man who do the burning, again and again!

Jim said...

Interesting post.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Thank you for these photos. I reminder of the moving ceremonies of others loss.

The comments about photos remind me of the surprise I felt at my sister's funeral in Canada to find people clustered around the coffin not yet lowered into the grave and took photographs. I have never seen that happen here but it wasn't offensive ... just different.

Herding Cats said...

How awful to have to say goodbye to a child. Poor man and his family xx

Stickup Artist said...

I can only think about the grief of the young boy's father. How difficult that must have been for him. Extremely powerful and thought-provoking series. Your blog, your journey on this planet, is truly fascinating...

Gene said...

Great story-telling with pictures.

Kathy said...

This custom may be personally repugnant in our culture, but I have heard that, ecologically speaking, American cemeteries are the biggest hazardous waste dumps in existence. I, for one, will be cremated!

CaT said...

wow, i heard of this, but never thought about it.
yuk... the smell was too intense. really, yuk!
really interesting to see though!

R.Ramakrishnan said...

The burning of the body on the funeral pyre is called "cremation" in Hindu custom. Thanks for sharing these pictures.

Dina said...

Amazing pictures. I pity the man who lost his son.
With Nazi crematoria still in memory, cremation is a hard thing for Jews to see.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

Very powerful images. Thank you for this post.

Fabien said...

Touchante, cette série

Francisca said...

I witnessed the same scene in at Pashupatinath in 2010, except the dead body was a much older woman. The grief of losing one's own child must be unbearable. We also left before the burning... because we had a plane to catch. But I know what you mean about feeling uneasy as an intruder at a private moment.