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Photo Story: A Day at a Crematorium

Dealing with the deceased is the everyday reality for those working at crematoriums.

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Entrance of Nigam Bodh Ghat, Hindu crematorium at Kashmere Gate. Credit: Wamika Singh

Imminent, dreadful, final and certain. These are the first words that come to mind when one thinks of death. In a life full of surprises and coincidences, death is certain – it is the final step. No wonder then that everyone dreads it so much. Yet, we live our lives ignoring the possibility of death. But not everyone can ignore the most certain aspect of life.

These are people who live in and around death 24×7. For them, death features every day, sometimes even ten times a day. Considered a morbid subject by many, this is the mundane, everyday reality for those engaged in performing funeral services and the last rites of the deceased.

Thousands of people are employed in performing funeral services at crematoriums across the country. Nigam Bodh Ghat, a Hindu crematorium in Delhi, is a different world in itself. Situated on the banks of river Yamuna, it offers a traditional Hindu crematorium where one performs the last rites of the dead and burns pyres.

With several life-size idols of Shiva, the crematorium appears to want to ease the family’s mind that the soul of the deceased has attained moksha (eternal bliss). The crematorium now also offers environment-friendly options like an eco-friendly pyre system and a CNG crematorium.

According to Rajinder Kumar, who works at the CNG crematorium, it is “A place that no one can escape”.

This photo essay walks you through a place of the dead, where ashes, fire, smoke and skeletons are a regular sight.

A hearse van, used to transfer dead bodies to the crematorium Credit: Wamika Singh

A hearse van, used to transfer dead bodies to the crematorium. Credit: Wamika Singh

CNG crematorium inside the Nigam Bodh Ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

CNG crematorium inside the Nigam Bodh Ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

CNG machines, an environment friendly way of burning the dead bodies. Natural gas is used as the fuel instead of wood. Credit: Wamika Singh

CNG machines, an environment friendly way of burning the bodies. Natural gas is used as fuel instead of wood. Credit: Wamika Singh

Workers at the CNG crematorium. Credit: Wamika Singh

Workers at the CNG crematorium. Credit: Wamika Singh

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Workers at the CNG crematorium, taking a lunch break while the bodies burn inside the CNG machines. Credit: Wamika Singh

CNG workers in the middle of a conversation. Credit: Wamika Singh

CNG workers in the middle of a conversation. Credit: Wamika Singh

A mourner at the CNG crematorium. Credit: Wamika Singh

A mourner at the CNG crematorium. Credit: Wamika Singh

People wait at the CNG crematorium as their deceased relative’s body burns. Credit: Wamika Singh

People wait at the CNG crematorium as their deceased relative’s body burns. Credit: Wamika Singh

Cemented platforms for burning pyres near the ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

Cemented platforms for burning pyres near the ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

A Pandit looks on at the platform where dead bodies are kept before burning. Credit: Wamika Singh

A Pandit looks on at the platform where dead bodies are kept before burning. Credit: Wamika Singh

Relatives collect ashes after the body is burnt completely. Credit: Wamika Singh

Relatives collect ashes after the body is burnt completely. Credit: Wamika Singh

Ashes are collected in a container by the pyre burner. Credit: Wamika Singh

Ashes are collected in a container by the pyre burner. Credit: Wamika Singh

Workers collecting ashes of different dead bodies. Credit: Wamika Singh

Workers collecting the remains of different bodies. Credit: Wamika Singh

Rajinder Das,an eco pyre burner rests after a long day at work. Credit: Wamika Singh

Rajinder Das,an eco pyre burner rests after a long day at work. Credit: Wamika Singh

A dog sitting at the ghat amongst the remains of pyres. Credit: Wamika Singh

A dog sitting amongst the remains of pyres. Credit: Wamika Singh

Burning of pyres at the ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

Burning of pyres at the ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

Last rituals of a dead body being carried out at the ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

The last rites of a body are carried out at the ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

A pyre burner waits for the pyre to completely burn during night at the Ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

A pyre burner waits for the pyre to burn out during night at the ghat. Credit: Wamika Singh

Rajinder Kumar, CNG worker, leaves for home after finishing the day’s work. Credit: Wamika Singh

Rajinder Kumar, CNG worker, leaves for home after finishing the day’s work. Credit: Wamika Singh

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  • K SHESHU BABU

    Emotional photo- essay. Death is certain to life. While individual households may live with the trauma for days and months, the people working have to endure the experiences through life. Had the photos represented other religions, it might have been more representative. Not just Hindus, even people working in other graveyards face similar traumatic situations. Common people think less about these ‘ public servants’ …

  • Gopal Negi

    Well written… Superb Camera Work… This story is “Moksh Dwar” for many upcoming writer… All The Best Wamika