Saturday, 18 September 2010
This is a sketch of the "Burning Ghat" of Varanasi (Benares), on the Ganges; the place where the Indians burn their dead.
We stood on a balcony in the billowing smoke, only 3 meters above the burning corpses. 2 were burning, one nearly burnt up, and of one pile the wood was still smoldering.
I wil explain the tradition: after a person dies, the oldest son is shaven bald, and he and 6 bearers put the corpse in a colourful blanket and transport it almost running through the winding streets towards the ghat on the river. Dead are supposed to be cremated within 2 hours.
The corpse is put on a pile of wood, the blanket removed (the face becomes visible), and lit. It takes 3 hours to burn, the oldest son waits near the stairs on the right hand side. After the pile is completely burned the ashes are collected in shallow baskets. A guy standing in the water (at the left staircase) slowly shifts the ashes in the water from leftover metal of the teeth or rings, and gives it to the guy in the boat. The black ashes will disperse over the water towards the bathers only 100 meter away.
It was the most horrible what we saw during our trip. I did not draw or photograph this on location, I considered that to be disrespectful for the dead. Instead I memorized the scene and drew this later that night in the hotel. Not difficult, not only can I recall the scene in every detail even now, I dreamt about it for days.
De crematie plaatsen van Varanasi, langs de Ganges. We zagen daar de lijkverbrandingen van enkele meters afstand. Uit respect geen schets ter plaatse, maar die avond in het hotel uit mijn herinnering nagetekend.