Secrets of the ritual burning of bodies (India)

In the previous article I have clearly stated – I don’t like Varanasi.
When I pass through the dense tangle of the streets of this city, I feel as if dirt, chaos and stench of India have accumulated here.

I know – Traveler-writers shouldn’t express themselves in this way. We should be more careful about criticism of the places that we visit.
But I really like to be honest and say it how I feel it.

Even so – I will never tell the truth to anyone from India;  it would only serve as proof  to my ignorance and stupidity.

For them, Varanasi is a holy place and they dream to die there.

In Varanasi you can find two places where corpses are burned in pyres and one electric crematorium for the people that don’t have money for ritual pyres.

As you can imagine – pyres are not a cheap thing.

One of the workers told me that they use a special kind of wood (corkwood, sandalwood or mango and banana leaves). Because of this, the smoke doesn’t have a unpleasant smell.

The average cost of a funeral starts around 7 000 rupii.
Size of the pyre and the height of the space on the Ghaty (stairs of the Ganges) depends on your financial and social status.

Poor people often put straw or paper to complete the lack of wood. Because of this, sometimes you can see burned remains of the people near the Ganges’ banks. It’s because the pile burns out before the corpse was burned.

The ritual take between 2-3 hours.
Before cremation, family members have traditionally prepared the body of the deceased.
They wash and shave the corpse. Then, they dress them – young girl wear red clothes. Married women are buried in their wedding dress and an orange shroud. Men have a white shroud.

Everyday workers are visiting local hospitals and checking the health of patients
There are about 3.14 million deaths a year: the pyres burn continuously everyday.

The condition of burning in a pyre is a natural death.

India people believe that if you died by accident you don’t deserve for a pyre because you weren’t a good person and karma has reached you.

Other non-cremated people:

  • Pregnant women
  • Holy man Sadhu
  • Lepers and people with a pox
  • Kids
  • People who have died as a result of being bitten by snake

Their corpses are simply wrapped in a shroud, loaded with stones and… thrown into the Ganges.

I felt so strange watching the bodies waiting to be burned.
Death has never been so tangible and close.

During the second ceremony, I noticed that no family member is crying.
I asked the employee about it and he told me, people are crying inside. They believe that tears disturb the soul’s journey.

*It is strictly prohibited to take pictures of bodies or ceremonies. All the photos you saw in my article comes from Google.

** On the banks of the Ganges, you can always see several men, (sometimes children) who sift through the water in search of jewelry that that used to belong to the deceased.


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