Saturday, 18 September 2010

Burning Ghats


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.

9 comments:

Rodney said...

Mooie schets, mooie kleuren, mooie weergave van de vlammen en rook die met de wind meegegaan.

Geert-Jan said...

Indrukwekkend om mee te maken.

Rob Carey said...

Amazing you were so close to observe this tradition. We saw it from a ways away, and even then it was troubling.

Rodney said...

In de gauwigheid was mijn eerdere reactie gebaseerd op de schets zonder de tekst te lezen. Uiteraard vind ik de gebeurtenis die je beschrijft indrukwekkend en van grotere betekenis dan de schets.

Rene Fijten said...

Bedankt Rodney en Geert-Jan. Thanks Rob, you saw something similar in Kathmandu? I did not even tell the most horrible parts. Funny though, at that moment it didn't impress us so much, I took some time to realise what we saw.

Beá Meira said...

I like your memorys drawings, this is especially strong.

Rene Fijten said...

Bea thanks, the memory is strong as well.

art is jokken said...

Indrukwekkende verhaal, (ik ben nooit in India geweest) maar ik kan me voorstellen dat je nog dagen over droomde.

Rene Fijten said...

Bedankt voor je bezoek. Het was indrukwekkend.