Feature Story

Between a river & the sea, - India.

Hindu cremation ground - Kannur Kerala India
Wooden logs for Hindu cremation pyre - കണ്ണൂര്‍, കേരളം
Hindu memorial ceremony at Shmashana
Food offerings to the departed soul - boy practices a Hindu memorial rite
Funeral corpse cart on Hindu cremation ground - Kannur Kerala India
Between a river & beach - Hindu cremation ground - Kannur Kerala India

Sleeping the night at Kannur's train station's waiting room I felt like relaxing with a horizon. Deposited my backpack at the stations cloak room, took an autorickshaw and got to the beach.

A simplistic sculpture garden and a playground were still empty in the early morning hour and lead me to the wide sandy beach.

Some sportsmen were exercising on the empty beach. I got to know they are Kerala's official soccer team with an Australian player as well.

Moved on and walked up a sandy path surrounded by crawling bushes into an opening in a stone fence.

At first I couldn't realize where I came to. Some nets seemed like a fisherman storage place. I asked the only man standing by a tree and a well but he seemed too distracted by a foreigner's unexpected visit to this place at that hour.

Walking closer I saw the flower garlands and the many "sand boxes" full of ashes and then realized.... it's a cremation ground. I was exited and somewhat shocked almost paralyzed.

While walking among the plots a man walked up to me and we talked. Then a group of people approached one pyre box and started a ceremony. He told me it's the 3rd day since the deceased was cremated at the same spot. Since then this spot should not be used for any other ceremony and the memorial service began.

The person conducting the rituals was volunteer, a barber. While he was slicing branches and peeling a green coconut another man stood in the ashes and shaped these into a long hill at the center.

Then the barber started the ceremony. First lining three strips of white cotton along and sprinkling milk from within a dried coconut shell, then removing them and burying the coconut in that hill and planting a white flowering branch into the juicy heart of the coconut. After he aligned strips of what seemed as Bamboo around it.

Later, at the corner of the box he planted thin branches with tips wrapped with cloth submerged in a flamable liquid. He set these on fire fire like little torches and then sprinkled red mixture onto small bowls made from fresh banana leafs and placed little pieces of different Kerala sweet dishes steamed in Banana leafs. Then he ignited little 'ciggarette-like' wraps that smelled like burning skin.

A little later others of the family and friends that were surrounding the spot were also making offerings one by one and walking around the pyre box.

A young boy vomited twice but didn't cry or run, just stood peacefully and then too did the offerings.

I asked if I could take photos and was approved.

The atmosphere around was quite casual. The whisper of the waves, the bright morning sun and easy occasional chatting from around. My presence seemed not to interfere.

I shed some tears. Such emotions are hard to pinpoint. I felt the greatness of a life cycle ending here and yet the balanced emotions of all around, as the physical end, is just a part of life.

After everything was finished some went to the well and washed their feet. One of them invited me to come home with them as they rented a minibus and probably were continuing the ceremony later. I said OK but then stayed behind to digest and just let it be.

Looking at them walking away and boarding the minibus at a distance on the soiled path they waved goodbye to me and I did too. Then I just walked the bridge over the adjacent river and kept on going



My India: Where every village is home - Experience !

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2 responses

  • Shirin Leung

    Shirin Leung gave props (4 Oct 2011):

    Incredibly powerful photo essay.

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (14 Jan 2012):

    really powerful photoessay....vote

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