UP: Cremation grounds expand as Covid deaths mount


Over the years, these cities have swelled in size but their cremation grounds have not – not till the second wave of pandemic arrived a few weeks ago.

The cremation grounds in Lucknow, Varanasi and Prayagraj are now unable to cope with the rush of bodies for cremation and pyres are now being lit on any open ground available nearby.

In Lucknow, the cremation grounds in Bhainsakund-renamed Baikunth Dham- and Gulala Ghat can no longer bear the burden of bodies that are coming in at an alarming frequency.

The cremation site has been expanded to the river bank adjacent to the site and people are even performing the last rites on the outskirts of the state capital.

“My grandfather succumbed to Covid on Monday and there was a long queue of bodies at Bhainsakund. We were told that we would have to wait for at least ten hours for our turn. We quietly brought the body to near our house in Chinhat area, arranged for wood and held the cremation at night in a barren piece of land. At least we could ensure that the body was cremated properly and the ashes were also collected,” said Mohan Yadav, a local businessman.

Shri Ram Agarwal, whose wife died earlier this week, said that with the rush of bodies for cremation, he was unable to collect the ashes for immersion from Gulala Ghat.

“The workers said that they could not wait for the embers to cool down a because bodies were lined up for cremation. They said they would collectively immerse the ashes at the end of the day,” he said.

Lucknow Mayor Sanyuka Bhatia said that three greenatoriums are coming up soon and this would solve the problem to a great extent.

A greenatorium is the option for people to go for a traditional way of performing last rites for their loved ones without damaging the air quality of the city as it will have characteristics of both electronic and traditional way of cremation.

Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) officials said that the machine will have a cascade where the body will be kept along with wood and pyre. After performing last rituals, the pyre will be lit up and the chamber will be closed for burning the body.

To stop toxic gas emitted by the burning of the body for getting contaminated with the atmosphere, the gas will be mixed with water to be turned into vapour before getting released to air through a chimney. It is also less time consuming as compared to the traditional way of cremation.

In Varanasi, the famous Manikarnika and Harishchandra ghats, known as ‘maha-shamshan’ (cremation grounds), are also proving to being insufficient in size and capacity for holding last rites of bodies following the second wave of Covid-19.

In view of the massive increase in influx of dead bodies leading to long queues for cremation at these two ghats, where pyres are said to burn round the clock, the district administration and Varanasi Municipal Corporation have now earmarked a new cremation ground at Samne Ghat in Ganga upstream.

Municipal commissioner Gaurang Rathi said, “Bodies of Covid-19 patients dying in hospitals are mainly taken to Harishchandra Ghat as it has both CNG crematorium and wooden pyre cremation facility. If CNG crematorium is operated round the clock, 25 bodies can be cremated here while additional arrangements for cremating 25 bodies have also been made at this ghat.”

The arrangements have been made for cremation of mainly the bodies of persons dying due to Covid or other ailment during treatment in hospitals.

“As a huge number of bodies are reaching at Harischandra and Manikarnika Ghats, the queue for cremation is stretching longer. In view of the increased load on these two ghats, it was decided to make additional arrangement at Samne Ghat. Under the new arrangements made so far, at Samne Ghat 10 bodies can be cremated in a day. This new site of cremation was started on Tuesday with the cremation of five bodies of Covid patients,” he added.

Gulshan Kapoor, manager of Mahashamshan Nath temple at Manikarnika Ghat said, “In normal days around 80-100 bodies are cremated at Manikarnika Ghat while these figures go up to three time in harsh weather condition during summers, winter and also flood seasons every year. But, despite no extreme heat conditions more than 250 bodies are reaching here on an average per day, due to the surge in Covid-19 menace.”

Mahesh Babu a worker at Manikarnika Ghat said the number of bodies coming for cremation have increased by three times in recent days.

In Prayagraj, cremation of bodies is now being done at undesignated banks of the rivers.

With long waiting hours at Rasoolabad and Phaphamau Ghats is now forcing people to cremate the dead under the Phaphamau bridge and on the banks of the river on the outskirts.

Wood, in these makeshift cremation grounds, is expectedly being sold at a premium but no one is complaining.

“At least, we get to cremate our family members in peace,” said Mohit Kumar, who recently lost his elder brother to Covid.

The kin of the deceased mostly carry the bodies in private vehicles because ambulances are scarce.