Death and Travel in Kathmandu

the burning ghats
Cremation at Pashupatinath

May 2017

Pashupatinath, Kathmandu

An constant stream of dead arrive at the ghats in Pashupatinath, Kathmandu. They are clothed in gold for cremation.

The bodies are prepared before burning and lashed to a frame, perhaps to prevent the corpse from moving as they burn.

There are multi tiered temples and chortens including statues of deities painted with red paste and adorned with marigolds. Countless temples and shrines overlook the Bagmati River where monkeys wade across and dogs forage. This is where the ashes are laid and there is evidence of burnt logs in the river which eventually joins the Ganges down south in India

I’m sitting on a stone platform in the heat of the sun wondering what the people of Kathmandu do in the monsoon season when rain prevents fires?. Perhaps there is somewhere else inside where their dead can be cremated.

There are crowds watching with tourists taking photographs throughout. From a group of half naked sadhus (Hindu ascetics), one sadhu asks for rupees to take his picture. I guess they have to eat as well. There are tours guides at the entrance asking for work, where an entry fee applies for foreigners. (the guides are good at what they do).

It is surprising how the people of Kathmandu seem to tolerate & don’t seem to mind that such an important, personal event such as the funeral of a loved one is is put on display for tourists and even advertised in Nepal tourism posters.

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