Weekly Photo Challenge – State of Mind


A photo that reflects your own state of mind at the moment you took it.

No. MB was not placed on top of a funeral pyre and just about to be set alight!

The first part of the actual burning of a dead body on a Hindu ‘funeral pyre’ is to set alight some straw that is stuffed into the mouth of the dead person, after placement on a bed of timber logs. This is considered to release the soul to be reborn again through reincarnation, on its journey through multiple reincarnations to eventual Nirvana. Later the body is covered with timber and straw, the entire pyre set alight and the body is reduced to ashes, which are washed with a few buckets of river water, into the holy Bagmati River, in the case of the below  photo which MB took in Kathmandu, Nepal, approx three years back.

There is a state of wonderment and awe at the whole funeral ceremony and burning of the body amongst all the relatives and onlookers. The funeral ceremonies are considered happy occasions because of the whole reincarnation idea, unlike the West where much sadness and shedding of tears will be part of the service. And wonderment and awe was equally on the mind of MB as he had the privilege to witness the whole event from start to finish.

P21

15 Comments on “Weekly Photo Challenge – State of Mind

  1. A fascinating ritual. As somebody who experienced burning of the flesh while very much alive, it is good to realise that the body in the photo didn’t feel the terrible pain.

    Some years ago, I sustained third degree 18% burning on my body surface, owing to an arson attack on my person while sitting in my car. The balaclava wearing assailant (unknown to this day) poured flamable liquid on me and the car interior and then ignited the liquid.

    My car was destroyed and I spent 6 months or so in hospital, during which time I had eleven operations for plastic surgery. I lost parts of fingers and now have reduced hand function. A look at my ears might suggest that I am a rugby veteran – not so, I am afraid, but sometimes I am happy to pretend.

    I recall the event vividly, including my attempts to put out the fire in my hair by pushing my face in a hedge, which caused additional injuries.

    MB’s photo does not cause me any psychological pain, I am resilient at this stage. In fact, as I have my Saturday morning cuppa in bed, I welcome MB’s photo – it reminds me of how lucky I am to be alive. Despite my experiences with fire, I remain open to the possibility of cremation when I die, after all there would be no pain, nor need for skin grafts! Unless, of course, I am sent to hell for my sins!

    Sorry for this ramble, it is, in fact, therapeutic for me.

    Best Wishes to MB’s Readers. TH (Ireland)

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    • Thanks for contribution Tom and for bearing your soul to some degree. Although we know each other personally and I was aware of the incident generally, I was unaware of the details. Thank God for your survival. Regards from the desert.

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      • Thank you Mike, I hope all is well with you. Keep up your writing, I enjoy it a lot. Talk soon. TH.

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  2. I find your post beautiful and moving, Michael, regardless of the details of the ceremony. You were privileged indeed to witness this ceremony — and your readers are privileged by proxy to share in your wonderment and awe. Thank you for sharing this.

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    • Thank you very much HM. I believe my details are correct. But let us see if we will gain further knowledge from readers. It is a most incredible spectacle, and a very moving one indeed. Thanks again for comment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m certain you reported the event as you saw it and remember it, MB. Sometimes there are regional (or even local) differences in rites — and sometimes we miss or misinterpret something because we each see the world through the lens of our own experiences and perceptions. The important thing is the truth of what you took away from the experience … and *that* you have shared beautifully. Namaste.

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      • Thanks again. For sure the service I have described is exactly what takes place at the Bagmati holy river. It was also on my mind that there are regional differences and maybe this is the source of the other comment. In any event, I await further enlightenment. Namaste to you too!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Mukul. I did not not mention the washing of the feet in the river which is the first part of the total ceremony. In my post I am only referring to the actual burning part of the ceremony, which I witnessed and was explained to me by the official guide (a Hindu gentleman) at the ceremony at the Pashupatinath Temple.
      However, don’t leave us all in suspense. Please feel free to tell me where I am mistaken and I will gladly correct the post. Your corrective comments would be most welcome. Thanks in advance.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Death can be a painful chapter in someone’s life. We do not post pics of dead bodies. People treat Cremation as a Zoo and something to gawk at. Humans are strange indeed.

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      • Thanks for your reply Mukul. My experience at the temple – The official guides request people to go to the opposite side of the river and remain quite and respectful as the funeral services take place. On my asking, the guide confirmed that there is no restriction on taking some photos, as long as its done from distance and done quietly. I observed all the requests. As I said in my post, I was in awe at the whole occasion and spectacle, coming from an entirely different culture as I do. In relation to grief, or maybe the absence of the large amount of grief that I would experience in my home country, it was explained to me that of course the family will feel like any family in any part of the world when they lose a loved one, and grief is a natural and obvious reaction. But the Hindu guide also explained to me the happiness (maybe not the best choice of word) that Hindus feel when the thoughts of reincarnation are considered. My post was of course brief, so I did not go into a great level of detail. I watched many funeral services that day, and was struck by the absence of overt grief and mourning. Certainly much different that I have ever witnessed at home, as I have already stated. In relation to posting the photo of a deceased person, I can only state that the person in the photo is anonymous – in the sense that his face is not recognisable. However, I was unaware that such behaviour is not considered appropriate in your culture. My intention was not to insult anybody or anybody’s culture. I am writing this blog for a number of years (mainly about living in the Middle East) and I am sure that the respect I have for other peoples beliefs and cultures is very evident.
        So that’s my take on it all. Sorry if I have caused offence. This was of course not my intention. And as you can see from some other comments, others have also viewed the post in very respectful fashion. Thanks again for your comments and thanks for some additional education. MB

        Liked by 1 person

      • I do appreciate your taking time out to reply . There are just a few quick points before we move onto more pleasant aspects in Life. 1. Basic Humanity crosses cultures. You do not punch someone in the Nose if the Guide says it is Ok. 2. I am always amazed ,what is there to gawk at and take pictures in a cremation. Should I go and take pictures of a Funeral?
        My comments are not directed at you but at a vast number of tourists who do the same thing in India along the Ganges as well.

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      • Thanks Mukul. I do not know where you come from but I will be happy if our paths cross at some stage in life. As you say – onwards to more pleasant aspects of life. MB

        Liked by 1 person

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