Bhameshvar

With an staggering fee of 1,000nrs per person for admission into the Pashupatinath Temple and the Bhameshvar cremation ghats, the venture doesn’t seem quite worth it.

Supposedly the temple dates a few thousand years old and the sacred grounds date way more depending on the legend you believe. Looked nice and impressive from outside the gates, but we decided to hang onto the 2,000nrs anyway, and wandered towards the river.

I went in expecting something like the ‘burning ghats’ of Varanasi, where a small section of the human highway along the Ganges is set aside for an endless list of recently bereaved humans.

I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help comparing my only other experience of seeing a burning ghat with the Bhameshvar ghat.

The Bagmati river was almost dried up, and black and fetid with sewage– the Ganges actually seemed swimmable in comparison. There was no campground of sadhus on the steps and only two people were selling poojas to the scant, mournful crowds. Understandable: it’s hard to top the vitality of Varanasi and the Ganges.

Nevertheless, I thought Bhameshvar managed to be more honorable in the final stages of the funerary process.

Instead of a large pen of burning pyres on the riverbank or bodies lined in cramped rows on the steps, the cremations are staged on individual cement platforms, each of which are roofed. After the funeral and consecration with the holy Bagmati river, the body is transported by stretcher to the lofty final resting place.

In Varanasi, there were cows and buffaloes lowing over the pyres, distressed that their fodder was feeding the flames. Even if it was symbolic of the circle of life and stuff, I thought they kinda took away from the sobriety of the moment. Especially when there was cow shit all over the place and people were trodding through it (myself included).

Anyway.

On the far side of the Bagmati river, a long staircase leads away from the ghat and there are a few rows of carved rock lingams lining the hill above the river, like silent sentinels of departing souls.

Though many shrines were shrouded in the smoke of incense and blessings, the graveyard was quiet, gray and somber in the late afternoon light. Everything stood out in dark relief.

As the sun melted into an orange sky, smoke from the pyres billowed high into the air and life breathed in death.

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