Kolkata – Burning Ghat

Left the hotel at 6.30pm and we made our way to the burning ghat beside the Ganges.  Malini told me that here it is ok to take photos which is definitely not the case in Varanasi.  Arriving there it was clear that there were no burnings, in fact there was no evidence of burnings have taken place.  Apparently everyone is now opting for cremation in an electric oven.  Standing in the outside area we were covered in palls of smoke being vented from the crematorium that was adjacent to the ghat.  I realized that breathing this smoke was probably not a very clever move, but it was everywhere.  So we headed around the corner and went inside.  There is a large holding area where there were the bodies of 5 people tied to simple wooden frames, wrapped in colored cloth but their faces, arms and feet all visible.  They were being attended to by their relatives as they waited their turn.  This is a large crematorium with multiple furnaces and operates 24 hour a day.  Each cremation takes 45 minutes and is much cheaper than burning a body with wood.  It is clear that unless you are a complete arsehole, photographing these corpses whilst the relatives all watch you would be an understatement in insensitivity.  As the next body was being lifted up to be carried to the oven one of the women relatives became almost hysterical and then collapsed.  This of course drew everyone’s attention allowing me to get two shots.  My Nikon is actually quite quiet and I was using the f1.4 50mm prime lens so it was fast and no flash.

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