Pashupatinath Pashupatinath
© Peter Christmann


5. April 2014 – 20. July 2014

Cabinet Exhibition

Hindu burials in photographs

Cabinet Exhibition by Peter Christmann

Pashupatinath is a holy place for Hindus where God Shiva is worshipped as the Lord of all living things. Pashupatinath is one of the most important temple sites of Hinduism. The temple complex is located on the holy river Bagmati, about five kilometres east of Kathmandu in Nepal. The actual temple is only accessible to Hindus, but the outer temple district is open to all. Inside the temple is a huge Shiva lingam, the fertility symbol of Shiva, the most important and auspicious god in Hinduism. The Bagmati divides the complex into two large areas. On the left bank of the Bagmati are the Pashupatinath Temple and the cremation sites, the Arya Ghats (cremation sites of the higher castes) and the Surya Ghats (cremation sites of the lower castes). This place has a special meaning for many believers as a place for the "last rites", it is considered desirable for a religious Hindu to be cremated here.

The corpse, usually wrapped in yellow cloths, is carried to the places of cremation – the ghats – where a pyre is erected. Before the cremation, the corpse is sprayed with the water of the holy river or the feet are washed in the water. The corpse is then covered with damp rice straw. If the family is wealthy, the precious, fragrant sandalwood is used for burning in addition to normal wood. The eldest son then walks around the pyre five times clockwise, according to the holy number five, which in Hinduism represents the five elements earth, water, fire, wind and akasha, the ether. Then he (alternatively the eldest daughter or a priest) lights the pyre with a straw tuft soaked in butter, which he places in the mouth of the dead person. Once the body has been burnt to ashes, it is scattered in the river.


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