Circle of Life

18 Jul

It is fitting that we ended our trip to Nepal with a visit to the holy crematorium at Pashupatinath.  On the banks of the holiest of holies, the Bagmati River, Pashupatinath represents the place of endings and beginnings to the Nepali.  It was there that we were forced to think deeply about life.  Its beginning, its end, and its purpose.  At first, to our Western sensitivities, Pashupatinath makes you hold your nose and avert your eyes.  The spectacle, the odors, the emotions of mass cremations is very difficult to accept. Yet, as with life, you learn to ponder deeper meanings.  The end merging into the beginning – the transitory emerging from the permanent.  The ceremony is most delicate.  The body is prepared, purified, presented, cremated, and then offered to the river.  The family members gather not only to attend the ceremony, but also to become participants in the act.  They wait—thinking, chatting & discussing the deceased’s life while they watch the body burn.  The sight of the flames, the smell of the ash, the heat of the fire, the taste of the rice and the sound of the mantras all become part of the family’s substance. As the ashes settle on the banks of the Bagmati and return to the earth, the four elements of life are recreated: the Earth that collects the ashes, the Wind that carries the smoke, the Fire that purifies the flesh, and the Waters of the Bagmati.  Life is renewed. Transient, yet immutable.

-Post by RPS

Note: Please be warned that some of the following images are a little graphic.  I have decided to post pictures of the cremation ceremonies because it is what this sacred place is about.  It was a beautiful and moving experience for us, and while it might be shocking to many readers from Western cultures (as it was to us at first), that is a large part of why it affected us so much.

Three monkeys silhouetted like statues at dusk in Pashupatinath

The banks of the Bagmati where the ashes meet the water

Cremation Ceremony

A colorful reminder of life in the midst of this humbling, yet sacred place

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