Pashupatinath is one of the four holiest sites in Hinduism. Every Hindu with the means and physical ability attempts to visit in their lifetime. It is dedicated to Shiva, god of destruction, one of the primary three gods in the expansive Hindu pantheon (Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Maintainer and Shiva the Destroyer). We got off the bus in a fog of smoke we knew only too well was the product of the cremation ceremonies that have occurred in this holy place by the Bagmati River for centuries. Sitting across this ancient river, I watched family after family plod, some silent with grief, others wailing with sorrow, towards the river to grace the deceased with the death rites, ending in cremation. Nothing could have prepared me for their bereaved cries as they circumambulated their loved ones robed in vibrant orange cloth. With these emotions, responding to the powerful experience of witnessing this incomprehensible scene, I wrote a small poem.
Anguished cries spew from souls tormented with loss, circling the one robed in vibrant orange robes of final darkness
Four vivid marigolds float by on the wizened river, the silent teacher
Constant as empires of corporeality, now liberated in flames, soar
Beyond the anguish
Farther away than even the tortured cries can reach
Blanketing the skies, scattering the atoms of an old shell
One rides up and up and up, resting on a craggy peak, kissed by crimson light as the sun awakens the world to a new day
Another rests on veridian grass beneath a blooming daisy, admiring its unfolding golden glory
One more drifts through the open window of a small house in a small village. She lays beside a sleeping child. His tears have dried and now peacefully he rests. Unaware of his mother silently present, resting beside him, a snowy particle of life.
Infinite more spread out and away
Carried on Her winds beyond the known
Through earth, water, fire, air
Into the ether she flies in a final diaspora
Greater than ever before
To start anew