Cremation ground turns picnic spot

Cremation ground turns picnic spot

Marriages are also held here

Cremation ground turns picnic spot

This is a cremation ground and certainly with a difference. Here, marriages are performed and the place also doubles up as a picnic spot. The cremation ground is located in Barhalganj town in Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh, about 275 km from Lucknow.

The cremation ground, which is situated on the banks of the sacred the River Saryu, is maintained by ‘Mukti Path’ (the road which leads to salvation), a voluntary organisation comprising mainly the local people.

“A few years ago, people would grudgingly go to the place even for the cremation of the dead as the place was dirty and filthy. Many would leave the half burnt bodies on the bank of the river and go home...the dogs and other stray animals used to feed on them”, said Mahesh Umar, the treasurer of Mukti Path.
“About eight years ago, a group of local people decided to take up the renovation and beautification of the cremation ground and formed an organisation comprising doctors, lawyers, teachers and local traders”, Umar told Deccan Herald from Barhalganj.

“The committee, which had 20 members, decided that initially all of them should make some financial contribution and each member donated Rs 5,000 so that the work could be taken up”, he said.

The inspiration for beautifying the cremation ground was drawn from Gandhi Samadhi at Rajghat in New Delhi, Umar said.

“Initially, we had to face a lot of opposition also...people felt that the job was impossible to accomplish but we did not lose heart and launched the work,”Umar said.

As the work progressed, the people, who had openly expressed their apprehension in the beginning, started coming forward with financial contribution. Even those who came with the bodies for performing their last rites used to donate money when they saw that the ground was being beautified.
“Besides, the committee members went round the nearby villages to collect donations from the people...we even used to accept donations as low as Rs two,” he recalled.

“Seeing our enthusiasm, the local member of the UP state legislative council and others philanthropists also came forward with generous financial contributions,” he added.

Umar said that so far Rs three crore has been spent on the beautification and work is still going on.

There is a big hall measuring 72’ by 100’ on one side of the ground while 36 platforms have been constructed for burning of the bodies, Umar said.
A guest house has also been constructed and a lush green garden with flowers and trees of various varieties has been raised, Umar said adding that the idols of many Hindu gods and goddesses and statues of saints have also been erected at different places in the Mukti Path.

A statue of Lord Buddha is also under construction, he said adding that once it is ready, it will be one of the tallest in the country.

“People come here for picnic during the holidays with their the evenings the entire area bristles with activities with children playing and enjoying the outing”, he said.

“One could see the families walking in the garden or just sitting and watching the burning pyres”, he said.

“Marriage ceremonies also take place...people hire the big hall for the purpose”, Umar said adding that engagement ceremonies etc are quite common in Mukti Path.
Besides, every year ‘Saryu Mahotsav’ (Saryu festival) is also organised on the bank of the river in which eminent personalities including prominent saints, poets, litterateurs and others take part.

“We also hold religious discourses by prominent saints and spiritual gurus and people in large numbers turn up to listen to them”, Umar went on to add.
He said that such places are normally neglected by the people. “No one cares where the bodies are being consigned to flames though these places should be such that could provide peace not only to the departed soul but also to those who accompany the bodies”, he said.

The Mukti Path has become famous even in the nearby districts and people now come here from far away places. Many of them come here just for visiting the place, he added.