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Hackett, John; Gammon, Roland; Ross, Sayre; Breslow, Sally (ed.) / See
Vol. 10, No. 5 (Sept. 1951)

Death fires on the Ganges,   p. 28-29 PDF (1.1 MB)


Page 28-29

DEATH FIRES
On
THE GANGES
INDIA CREMATIONS DRAMATIZE LIFE'S FINAL MYSTERY
S() 338.000.000 spiritual -minded Hindus. death completes the miracle of
life. It allows the individual soul to ascend to a higher level of
being before reincarnation upon earth. The Hindu death ritual, therefore--
simple. awful. austere-becomes a hallowed experience for the many mil-
lion Indian believers.
Day and night. especially conspicuous during plagues and periods
of famine. a thousand death fires burn on the ghats iterraced landing
places) along the sacred Ganges River. Because Indians believe man is a
spiritual being. they consider the body of secondary importance. They be-
lieve in cremation-the fiery consumption of man's mortal remains.
Typical cremations are those occurring in the famous Calcutta Ghat in
the courtyard of Siva. Hindu Goddess of Destruction. The outward cere-
mony is simple. The corpse is borne into the court by mourners. The
orangewood pyre is prepared and lighted. And as an Indian swami prays
to Brahman. the Universal Spirit. the body is placed in the flames and
reduced to ashes. later are scattered on the river. To watching relatives, the
riier-borne cinders. floating to the sea. symbolize the soul's return to God.
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A
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All OfMRSO are removed, as deceased woman is prepared for ciemation. Hindus.
believing in man's divinity, expect to be reborn until soul attains perfection.
I
Fierce-burning orangewood is piled onto pyre before funeral procession arrives.
White cow, sacred to Hindus, wanders through courtyard of Goddess Siva.
Old man, in day's first funeral, is carried into yardoon bamboo bier. Relatives pay
ten rupees for orangewood and prayers of swami to Br-ahman, God of Hindu faith.
Placed on pyre, body is ready for flames. In Calcutta Ghat, 200 corpses
are cremated daily, with number doubling during epidemics or famine.
Charred pyre and lone grubbing cow complete melancholy scene at day's close. Only
ceremonial scattering of ashes on nearby Ganges River and coming of dusk remain.
29
BURNING


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