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.
At the end of the day we all die. Sad, but what to do! And if you happened to live and die in Nepal, chances are you would end up like the robed dead body in the picture, taken at the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.
Before a dead body is cremated it must first go through the ceremony of purification, which involves taking the body to the edge of the holy Bagmati River, dipping & washing the feet of the body in the water. Following purification, the body is then moved to the adjoining area of funeral pyres where the body is burnt and the ashes washed into the river on completion – onwards towards the next life and eventually (hopefully) reaching Nirvana.
You will notice the the feet of the body extend beyond the end of the timber/straw pyre. As the body burns, relatives will eventually manoeuvre the feet into the flames with bamboo or timber poles.
Hindu cremation at the Bagmati holy river, Kathmandu, Nepal. October 2012.
The body arrives at the temple. The feet of the body are dipped three times in the holy river. The body is cremated which is started by putting on fire the straw in the mouth – generally by the eldest son, which releases the soul.