Chakra Discussions

Commentary on Burning the Dead

by Yajna Murti das

Posted August 14, 2003

Truly, the Indian government has many ecological nightmares, but from my experience of three years of living in India, I can say that burning the dead is not such a serious one.

About 20,000 people die in India daily. Cremating each body would produce only a handful of ash and about and hour's worth of smoke. Compare that to how many - certainly well over 20,000 - cars, trucks, buses, auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, etc, pumping poisonous exhaust smoke into the atmosphere 24 hours a day.

Compare it also to how many factories all over India daily pumping smoke from their chimneys into the air and dumping their toxic wastes into India's rivers. The ash from cremation is organic material whereas the waste products from factories is often comprised of poisonous chemicals which harm wildlife ecosystems as well as human beings who depend on river water for bathing, washing, cooking, and drinking.

Compare it also to how many municipalities in India lacking adequate (or any) sewage treatment plants or waste water purification systems simply allow everything to flow into the rivers. Ash from burning a body is aseptic, but this raw human sewage is teeming with all sorts of bacteria which contaminate the rivers and cause diseases like dysentery, typhoid, etc.

These are only a few examples. Anyone who makes the above comparisons can see that there are much more serious environmental issues than burning dead bodies, and if pressure will be made to solve these problems, we should address the more serious threats first and not try to cover them up by over-emphasizing a relatively minor concern.

Your servant,
Yajna Murti das