(Cover Image Credit: Roshan Raut)
It was the second time that I had to visit Pashupati to attend a funeral. A relative had passed away. After an hour of a bus ride, we reached the destination.
The dust of Kathmandu valley, the high temperature, the crowd of people and vehicles, everything was the same. The sensation was just as the first funeral I had attended.
As we arrived, the demised body had been there already, wrapped around in clothes, lying there lifeless, just waiting to be lit. Seeing it remain there in silence made me question myself, what is all this struggle for? All of this commotion, all of this bustle, all of this hard work, all of this heart-wrenching pain, all of this sweat—if all of it leads to is this.
But even to burn in peace, we need resources. So maybe just to burn in serenity after death, we need to work intensely while we’re alive.
Bagmati, the borderline of life and death runs through the center of the Pashupati temple. One side of the river, there is mourning, pain, heartbreak, sadness, tears, melancholy, and funerals. On the other side, you see a different picture. You see couples being romantic, friends hanging out, you see foreigners taking photographs, all looking for the perfect candid shot. You see saints with long hair posing, reading holy books. If you look closely, you will not miss people enjoying a smoke or two. You’ll see kids diving into the river, performing summersault in the river, unfazed by a corpse across the river. You’ll hear bhajans coming from the upper side of the temple, and just when your mind is slowly finding some calm, the death rituals start.
I’m not familiar with rituals for other cultures, but in Newari culture, we have to offer “दुबो” dipped in water in the mouth of the deceased – the least favorite thing you’ll ever do. You can see their half opened eyes turned gray like they are going to open soon. If it’s your first time performing this ritual, then a trembling hand will be no surprise. After all the rituals are completed, the only thing left to do is set the body ablaze.
The fire coverers the body slowly and after a while, there is a blaze. The smoke starts spreading like a fog, along with an odor – within minutes, all you’ll see is ashes. The sobbing continues.
I wonder to myself – didn’t death do an ideal thing for the deceased, releasing him from his mortal body, bailing him out of all the pressure and tension he had been bearing for a long period of time and delivering him to a better place? But then again, I think to myself, it’s easy for someone like me to say such things. I haven’t lost someone very close to myself and ponder if I’d shed a tear someday when someone near to my heart dies.