Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Close to Life and Death in Nepal; Letea Cavander Was Moved by a Chance Encounter with Death

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

Close to Life and Death in Nepal; Letea Cavander Was Moved by a Chance Encounter with Death

Article excerpt

A PIECE of ash landed on my shoulder and I wondered if it had once been part of a person's jaw or even their heart.

I was on a viewing platform overlooking a family cremating their loved one at the burning ghats in Pashupatinath, about 5km from Nepal's capital Kathmandu.

My partner and I had been hustled up a small flight of rickety stairs, onto the platform above the Bagmati River, by a would-be guide.

He was one of many men making a living by selling information on the temple and surrounds to tourists.

aYou take photos, is fine, is fine,a he said as we walked to the rail.

We looked at each other, and the scene below, and lowered our cameras.

On our side of the brown and rubbish-clogged waterway, two fires were burning on square platforms.

One small blaze had swallowed the wood and the body underneath the small pyre almost completely.

On another platform, a fire had just begun. The wood looked wet as if it would not burn and dark smoke was swirling from the logs.

On a third slab the men of a family, their heads shaved as part of the grieving process, were sweeping ashes into Nepal's holiest river.

The slow-flowing water was peppered with plastic bottles and bags.

The rubbish coagulated in parts of the river and caught the fast-dissolving ash as it floated past the cremation ghats and continued its southbound journey into the Ganges in India.

Deep stone steps descended to the water's edge.

The country's Hindus and Buddhists have converged to worship on the riverbank since before Pashupatinath Temple was constructed in 1696. Meanwhile, our would-be guide continued his refined rant with the enthusiasm of a Prep teacher.

aYou see, only men down there,a he said.

I couldn't resist.

aWhy?a

Our aguidea told me about sati, the tradition of wives throwing themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres.

Although it was banned in the early 1900s in Nepal, he said women were not allowed on the cremation ghats. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.