This week, on a cold and drizzly day, I received a call informing that one of my closest friends had passed away. Naturally, I rushed to Pashupatinath, where he was to be cremated. His family had decided to cremate him in the electric crematorium. Although I have had the misfortune of attending innumerable funerals in my lifetime, this was the first time at the electric crematorium in Kathmandu.
It was a very cold day, with a light drizzle throughout, and at the cremation site, I saw half a dozen deceased individuals, their faces and bodies shrouded respectfully with vermilion and flower-sprinkled white and yellow sheets, lying on stretchers made of bamboo. There were quite a number of people who’d come to see off their near and dear ones, but the crematorium building was spacious, and with good seating arrangements for the mourners.
However, on enquiry, I discovered that of the two crematoriums, one was not working. So, we had to wait quite a while, since my dear deceased friend was fourth in line, which meant a wait of about three to four hours. Most of the people present appeared to be curious. Obviously, I thought, since visiting a crematorium is not a regular occurrence for most people, and probably, this was their first time at an electric crematorium.
Two shrouded figures lay on platforms in the large hall, just outside the doors leading into the room with the two crematoriums, which were made of iron and had a small but thick iron door up front. Four more shrouded bodies lay outside, including my late friend’s. The bodies inside had been transferred onto steel stretchers. When theirturn came, one of the bodies was taken inside the main crematorium room, accompanied by four-five of their closest relatives, who were either barefoot, or had on straw slippers, along with a priest.
Most of the last rites are completed as the deceased wait their turn outside, so in a matter of a few minutes, a burning lamp is placed on the mouth, the small iron doors open, the body is gently pushed inside, and the doors clang shut. It is as efficient a way to dispose of the last remains as any, and in a very clean and neat way, too. When my dear late friend’s turn came, we paid our last respects, and he was carried inside by his son and other family members, accompanied by a priest, who conducted whatever was left of the final rites.
Then the iron doors opened, and we saw that the inside was glowing red hot, so that as soon as the body was pushed inside, it was immediately consumed by the flames. Farewell, my friend, may you find solace in heaven. You had a good cremation.