(74) Thinking about death in the crematorium at Pashupatinath Temple, Ganges, Nepal.

Pashupatinath Temple Third Indian Expedition - Journey to Places Related to Buddha

Travels to Buddhist sites in India and Sri Lanka (74)
Thinking about death in the crematorium at the Pashupatinath Temple, Ganges, Nepal.

After visiting the old city of Kathmandu, my next stop was the Pashupatinath Temple, the largest Hindu temple in Nepal, located on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

Night view of PashupatinathWikipedia.

This Pashupatinath temple faces the Bagmati River, where the cremation ground was built. The Bagmati River is a tributary of the Ganges River, and it is believed that if ashes are poured into this river, they will return to the holy Ganges. Therefore, for Nepalese people, this place is an important holy place with the same meaning as Varanasi in India. I decided to visit this place because I wanted to see such a cremation site.

Get out of the car and go to the entrance of the Pashupatinath Temple.

We proceeded down a street with stalls that seemed to be the gateway to a temple.

Then, I saw what looked like a wisp of smoke at the end of my field of vision. It was the crematorium.

On the left side of the photo is the crematorium. I did not expect it to be located so close to the crematorium. The river is quite narrow. Therefore, the crematorium on the other side of the river is right in front of us.

Incidentally, it is allowed to take pictures in this crematorium. In Varanasi, India, photography is strictly prohibited, but this is not the case here. I do not know why it is prohibited in India but allowed here, but I decided to take pictures for my record.

Here is a view of the Bagmati River and the crematorium on the other side of the river. The rising smoke means that cremation is in progress.

When the cremation is complete and the body is reduced to ashes, the cremation workers drop the ashes into the river directly below with a hoe-like instrument. The ashes then flow into the Ganges.

This is the scene just before cremation. Just before setting the body on fire, the family gathers in front of the body and undergoes a ritual performed by Brahmins. The cremation itself takes quite a long time. Since it is an open-air cremation using firewood, it does not burn easily. Therefore, the bereaved family members take turns waiting in the vicinity of the cremation site to see how it goes, and return when the body is burnt. Despite the long cremation time, the crematorium is in full operation 24 hours a day as bodies are brought here one after another.

We came to the upstream side of the river. After crossing the bridge, everyone headed for the main temple of Pashupatinath Temple.

Here, bodies wrapped in cloth were temporarily laid to rest awaiting cremation. In the 10 minutes or so that I was here, they were being brought in one after another.

You have probably heard stories in the media, books, and various other media that people were shocked to see bodies being burned at a crematorium in Varanasi, India.

Bodies are burned in a bare crematorium on the Ganges River and their ashes are scattered in the river. And Indians bathe in the river near the crematorium. The story goes that these scenes shocked him and changed his outlook on life.

I have no intention to confirm or deny such stories. It is each person's own experience.

However, I came to the crematorium of the Pashupatinath Temple and found out something: "I don't feel anything special when I see these crematoriums. That is, "I do not feel anything in particular when I see these crematoriums. In other words, it was not a shock to me, it seemed normal to me.

Of course, this is the first time I have seen a body cremated in the open air. As a monk, I have always seen controlled, mechanical crematoriums. I have never seen a coffin actually burning.

Strangely enough, however, I was not shocked to see this open-air cremation, but rather it made me think about what is "natural for human beings. Even in Japan, cremation by machine has only been practiced in modern times. Before that, open-air cremation was the norm. The bereaved family members, their families, and villagers would line up to carry the coffin to the cremation site. So there is no need to be surprised at the open-air cremation here.

Yes, people die. I am not that surprised that people die. Of course, I am shocked when someone close to me dies. I am saddened. But the fact that someone dies is not a surprise to me.

But that doesn't mean I don't feel anything about death. I am afraid of death now. I am scared to death. To be more precise, I am terrified of the fact that one day I will have to leave this world, including my loved ones. And now that I know about Yukio Mishima's spectacular death and his works that question "life and death," the idea of death looms over me with an overwhelming force.

For me, this crematorium scene is neither surprising nor shocking, and it is not unnatural for me to take it for granted.

Besides, it is very gratifying to them that they are cremated here and their ashes are washed into the river. The suffering and sins of this world are washed away, and they are on their way to the next good life. The bereaved share this cheerful view of life and death along with the sorrow of bereavement. I believe that we do not need to feel too serious about these cremation scenes in foreign countries. What is important is how we live and die in the place where we live.

By the way, our guide told us an interesting story. The Nepalese government has installed many mechanical cremation facilities and offers them at a reasonable price. However, the people of Nepal do not want to use these facilities and prefer to be cremated here at the Pashupatinath Temple.

Cremation at the Pashupatinath temple is quite time consuming and expensive. The public crematoriums built by the government are far less time-consuming and less expensive. Nevertheless, the people of Nepal still want to be cremated here.

The government has built a new public crematorium because the crematorium here is operating 24 hours a day and is about to run out of capacity, but it is completely inadequate. This is not only a matter of time and cost. Air pollution caused by cremation is also an issue. In fact, my asthma did not go away for two months after visiting here. Of course, this is not the only reason, the Indian air is also damaging, but the smoke from the crematorium was particularly damaging to my respiratory system.

As our guide said, the air quality is getting worse every year. The increase in the number of cars and motorcycles may have had an effect, but the air around Kathmandu is really bad. The air around Kathmandu is really bad. It is surrounded by mountains, so the air is stuffy. What would happen if we built a fire this big in such a situation? That's what I mean.

But still, for Nepalese people, they really want to give a farewell in accordance with the Hindu view of life and death. This is not a matter of logic. Human culture is not something that can be put away by rationality and efficiency.

Crossing the Bagmati River where the crematorium is located, I went straight to the main temple of Pashupatinath Temple. I also headed there.

In the plaza in front of the main shrine, there was an exclamatory flock of pigeons. I don't know if they were locals or tourists, but they seemed to be feeding them. And each time they did, the flapping of the pigeons' wings sounded like a roar, and the assemblage danced like a tornado.

But what about this one? This is an important Hindu holy site that is also a World Heritage site. If the situation continues as it is, it is obvious that there will be serious problems due to fecal pollution. I may be nosy, but I think something should be done about this.

The main shrine is just ahead.

I cannot proceed from here as only Hindus are allowed to enter from here.

Only the golden bull statue seen beyond the entrance can be seen from here.

The Pashupatinath temple," our guide told us, "is an important place for Nepalese people in life, death, and everything in life.

We always come here for every milestone in our lives. And we also come here for memorial services. After we see them off at the crematorium here, we hold a memorial service every year. We usually do this until our grandchildren's generation."

Hindus do not make graves. However, this does not mean that they do not visit the dead. Rather, they actively perform the rituals to ensure a good life for the individual in the next life. And this is their duty to their grandchildren. In this way, they cherish their ancestors and family connections.

The Pashupatinath temple is both a place of cremation and a place of Buddhist rituals. At the same time, it is a place to pray for the milestones of life. It is said that not only Nepalese but also Indians often come here to make pilgrimages. In fact, when I visited there, many Indian groups were coming here. This is an important sacred place in the Hindu cultural sphere.

After this I continued walking around the Pashupatinath temple.

The Pashupatinath Temple is the temple of Lord Shiva. Shiva Linga is enshrined in each of the shrines in this picture.

This is the Shiva Linga, symbolizing Lord Shiva and the entire universe. Each of the shrines is open on both sides so that visitors can see through to the linga on the other side. The string of Lingas gave me an indescribable aura or energy. I have already introduced this Shiva Linga in my previous article.(15) The Shiva Linga faith in India: a Hindu view of sexuality in which phallic beliefs are still held in high esteem."I would like to refer you to the article "The Role of the Sector in the Development of the World's Most Sustainable Economy," which discusses this in detail.

The experience here still leaves a strong impression on me. It was a gratifying experience for me to see a crematorium in Nepal.

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