Cremation Ghat at Night, Varanasi


We started these sketches very late one evening and it got too dark to see colors properly by the time we finished. What little light reached our sketchbooks from a nearby flood lamp was blocked by the crowd that gathered to watch us. To make things worse, a massive cloud of mosquitoes buzzed around our heads. The sketches therefore have an Impressionistic quality.

This is the smaller of Varanasi’s cremation ghats, where bodies are burned 24 hours a day. The cremation ghats were among the main attractions in Varanasi and were discussed a lot by Western tourists. Many were philosophical about the practice of burning bodies in the open, while others were disgusted. An American woman we later met in Delhi said she disliked Varanasi because of the conspicuous display of death. None of the Indians seemed at all bothered by the cremations. While the foreign tourists watched the cremations with intense seriousness, the Indians chatted and smiled and laughed. We saw a corpse’s skull broken open (as per custom) but, surprisingly, it did not affect us.

The building with the smokestacks on the left is the new electric crematorium.

Top: Mallika, Bottom: Mohini

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~ by sketchindia on January 18, 2011.

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