Sunday, December 27, 2009

Funerals at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu

Pashupatinath sits on the banks of the Bagmati river in the eastern part of Kathmandu and is the biggest Temple to Lord Shiva in the world. It's considered to be one of the holiest places in the Hindu world and the departure point for Nepalese Hindus to the next life via cremation.
The river is strewn with the discarded clothes of the dead, the spent wood burned to charcoal and garlands of funeral flowers.The river is filthy and can be smelled well before it comes into sight. Despite the cremations occurring just yards away along its banks, the river is central for the local people and serves as the source of water for all aspects of domestic life .
A word of warning before proceeding;
Many of you will find the following pictures distressing.
I've exercised a measure of discretion in what I've decided to post and left out the more graphic pictures, but I'm sure there are still many who will find what follows objectionable.
If you think it will upset you then stop reading and wait for the next post.
The funerals are chaotic affairs and occur side by side with a long queue of waiting bodies. Spectators gawk at the proceedings and it all feels very public.
My guide, a Hindu encouraged me to take all the pictures I wanted and no one paid the least bit of attention to me lugging my camera with its 200 mm lens.
To western eyes this post may appear voyeuristic and in bad taste.
The atmosphere at the Temple did not reflect western sensibilities and sentiments and I've decided to post what I feel is a true reflection of the atmosphere that day.
That after all is one of the main points of having this blog.
As I said earlier, the atmosphere is chaotic.
There are numerous ceremonies being conducted simultaneously and the crowds of mourners, families and spectators ebb and flow so there is an almost constant mingling of different groups attending different funerals. Amongst the crowd there are also street urchins ready to pounce on the discarded clothes of the dead searching for the coins placed in the pockets by grieving relatives. Before the cremation the bodies are stripped and the clothes are thrown into the river. The kids are waiting.....
That's it for today.
I'll be posting the final stuff from Nepal over the next couple of days and I trust the more gentle hearted readers will find those pictures a bit easier to view.
Stay well


Anonymous said...

brilliant pics. it's interesting to see how much death is a part of life in nepal....they breathe it in, they wash in it. i love seeing how different cultures deal with the inevitable. thanks for the glimpse.

kserp said...

Terry, amazing pics in Nepal - thanks for taking me on the journey with seems I need to add another stop on my places to visit list. Be well!