Cremations in Nepal
Kathmandu. The Pashupatinath Temple is a place that we europeans can only visit after being prepared, especially if we traveling with children and teenagers. Cremations aren’t something that happens every day.
You can’t get here as you arrive at any other place to visit and you can arrive by case.
At the entrance a mix of smells acrid and pungent surround us. Impossible to describe them all together.
We see oddest characters in front of us. It seems like a movie set, but it’s all real. The cremations are real.
Some are there just for tourists and to have some money.
Others simply live their lives.
Impossible for us tourists understand the difference.
Daily life in the temple
In a moment we reach the center of this temple that should don’t understood as a “church” with a parallelism that would be natural for us. People living at the temple, attending, praying, working, searching, reflecting, and a thousand other things that we don’t understand. As we don’t understand this way for cremations.
Approx ten places are designated to the pyres.
Pyres for cremation in Kathmandu
Here are finalizing the preparation and the sons, dressed in white as a sign of mourning, turn on the fire for the cremation of their father and will take care of the whole operation.
As a sign of mourning they’ll cut their hair and bring white clothes, also for two years.
The fire is lit from the mouth.
Around the people doing what tradition handed down for centuries.
Fathers and sons come here to pray and eat after a few months of the cremation of a loved one, people praying, people talking and discussing,…
You can discover, chatting, that dating back just over 150 years ago, the law according to which women were burned at the pyre of her husband just died.
All of this is explained in the most natural by those who belong to a social system in which the castes, although abolished by law in a too recent past, they’re still deeply rooted in the population and in the life of every day, even in younger people.
Caste and youg people
A teenage girl, like Valeria, asks her a what caste she belongs. Valeria don’t understand and the misunderstanding is big.
The girl insists, in excellent English, and ask why Valeria don’t wants tell her. Valeria doesn’t understand the question, turns to us and after reply that in Italy there aren’t castes. The girl isn’t convinced: he asks us, to Valeria, to guide, to driver, … and he’s wonder:
“How can you live without castes?”
The pyres are never enough. A continuous cycle of people continue to arrive and wait their turn.
The area of the pyres is strictly reserved to men, women have other areas for them.
Near to the swirl of conflicting emotions that pervades us, the smells sometimes are unbearable.
Children and young people scour the bottom of the Bagmati River, one of the most polluted in the world, in search of rings and precious to sell.
Around life takes place almost unaware of our presence. At times we feel intruders and sometimes inevitably involved in this whirlwind.
A slight sense of nausea, I ask myself if it’s due more to what we breathe, what we see or what we thinking, wrap us inexorably.
The fires continue to burn.
Some places of worship are the most attended and some less.
Old people at temple
Other areas have mattresses for sick people. Valeria continues to observe dumb and a time whispered to me: “It’s as if in Europe the people went to the cemetery to wait to die…”.
What can I say? Nothing.
Valeria, you’re so lucky to be here at 13 years and to be able to observe firsthand everything. Watch and nothing more. If you can, try to hold off the inevitable judgment and don’t forget, once again, to thank for being born in the right and lucky part of the world!
Other areas are a kind of hospice. Older people (don’t forget that the life expectancy in Nepal is under 60 years) are highly regarded in the families, who take care of them. Someone, however, don’t have a family. They are very poor, even by the standards of Nepal. It seems that here live of charity, of contribution of the government and of associations.
The colors explode in this part of the temple and the ever-present smell that turns every step continues to accompany us.
In another part there are the gurus.
They study, pray, consol the people, read the future, smoke marijuana, take money, … are infinite the answers that you receive depending on the people with whom you speak.
Men and women. The orange color prevails.
This area is much less strong and less demanding, right Valeria?
In another area there are wild animals everywhere, pigeons, goats, cows, dogs, cats, monkeys,…
People pass by here. They throw rice and fruit. A bit is eaten by animals, a bit rot, … then droppings, … and smells, smells, smells.
Here other gurus, several young men. The explanation to us about their presence here is pretty unanimous: they can smoke freely.
Other pyres. Remarkable this photo with feet. Review, after some time, the same experience then.
The guys who are looking for valuable things in this water here are putrid children and ingeniously with wires and other.
Nepal is a very poor country. The fire continues unabated to perform its function in an enviroment that’s impossible to describe with the target to make you imagine being here.
The souvenirs and banquets abound with their style particular for us.
We, in total silent, continue to walk around and observe. Unable to understand, unable to accept, unable to do anything to help. The devastating sense of helplessness accompanies us every day throughout our stay in this country that fascinates and repels, that attracts and doesn’t allow the detachment. Never!