After Death: The Cremation

Hello.

So my father told me something yesterday and I thought it needs our urgent attention. My father had passed a shamshaan earlier that day, and he just absent-mindedly told me that the logs used for the funeral pyres were in a large number there. Huge ones too. Some five cremations were taking place at that particular moment.

Then I did some math in my head. In our city, there are some eight such places. There are 4,000 cities & towns in India. And even if all of them do not have eight such places, then too, it’s too much. About 300 of them have a population of more than 1,00,000 and seven cities have a population of more than 3 million. India’s death rate is 7.3/1,000 people. Let’s assume it 7 for convenience. Out of this as an assumption again, let four be hindus. Four hindus per 1,000 people. Seems little right now but wait. Total population of India is 1,342,512,706. According to a website that maps live population, 995,257,428 were Hindus which estimates to 80%. That’s SO MANY. So many cremations taking place. Every year, every month, every day! Have you wondered about how many trees are being cut for cremations everyday? According to a report, 50 to 60 MILLION trees are being burnt during cremations, with emission of millions of TONNES of carbondioxide. And now just imagine the amount of ashes generated, all of it put into rivers like Ganges (Ganga).

But before telling all this let’s just go over the Hindu belief:

All Hindus believe that the soul of a dead person must be completely detached from the body and the material world, so that it can be reincarnated again. For this, an open cremation is needed so that the soul can be easily released as soon as the body is burned atop a massive pile of wood. Draped in a white cloth when the body is burned on the pyre of wood, prayers are chanted. The soul gets engulfed in the flame and releases from the body. This traditional belief and ritual has been followed by the Hindus since time immemorial and traditional Hindu funeral pyre is the most auspicious method, considered by the Hindus for the dead person’s soul to rest in peace.

Source: www.mapsofindia.com

To clear things up, I am not anti-ritual or anti-Hindu or something. I respect all religions, their cultures & traditions. I myself am a Hindu, but I am with the environment, and want to do something for it. Because I certainly would want the world I will be reincarnated in to be pollution free and having trees to give me oxygen – so you can say I’m pretty selfish.

There’s some more things to look at. Traditional cremations requirements for a single one include:

  • 500-600 kg (110-132 pounds) firewood.
  • 3 liters of kerosene or pure ghee.
  • 300-400 cow dung cakes.
  • 6-8 hours for entire cremation

The total cost adds up to 2,000-3,000. Also, the remains can only be taken after 24 hours.

Solutions?

1) Electronic cremation –

Electronic cremation is not a new concept in India. It was commissioned in January 1989 as part of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP). Although this process is unconventional, it doesn’t require any firewood and there aren’t ANY gas emissions. Mortal remains can be collected immediately after a few hours.

Electric cremation is efficient, but Hindu customs don’t allow most people to go for this method. It’s so sad that this method has failed as people believe that “the deceased’s soul mingles with others which leads to the person not being reincarnated.” Umm, as far as I think, a good soul will probably like contributing to the environment conservation as peace. Anyway.

2) Green Cremation System –

This method serves all the traditions and saved the resources as well. In this method, a man sized grate is constructed under a roof with chimney and the firewood is placed on the metal base. Chimney helps in better air circulation (carbon produces lesser smoke when burnt in sufficient oxygen) and reduces heat loss.

Advantages? A lot:

  • Uses much lesser amount of wood, approximately 150-200 kg on contrary of 500-600 kg.
  • Takes lesser time for entire cremation – around 2 hours in lieu of 6-8 hours.
  • Emissions are reduced by 60%.
  • Significant reduction in cost.

This isn’t a new development – this system was developed by a Delhi NGO way back in ’92. And, of course, it isn’t popularized

Guys, it’s about time we realize that this is the 21st century. Though customs and traditions are pathways of all goodness, some of them need to be amended time to time. Times are changing, and so we need to too. Nobody is telling us to stop performing our rituals; all we need is to improvise our perspectives and methods. When the traditional method was made, forests were in abundance – simple thing. And now look around. How many trees do you see? Can you plant and grow as many trees as you burn in a matter of hours? Can you plant and grow as many trees as are cut in a matter of minutes? You can’t. Nobody can. But we can save our inherited heritage. Please, please let our future generations live in a world compatible for human existence. It is a plead as a fellow human being, a request as a fellow citizen above all. We can only help each other to create a better world.

That’s all for today. A huge portion of my research was from –

www.mapsofindia.com

As always, thank you for taking out time to read this.

QOTD: Life will be darkness often and that’s when you need to find light – within yourself.

Today’s Song: I Bet My Life by Imagine Dragons.

-Ash.

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4 thoughts on “After Death: The Cremation

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