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Book: Roots of Wisdom, Branches of Devotion

Chapter: 6. Wood, Water, and Waste: Material Aspects of Mortuary Practices in South Asia

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.30833


Albertina Nugteren’s chapter, which brings the second section
to conclusion, maintains a focus on ecology but privileges an analysis
of tradition and ritual praxis, namely the burning of bodies as part
of the final sacrifice (antyeṣṭi). By relating prescriptive Sanskrit texts to
fieldwork conducted in Nepal, the author explores the centrality of fire in
Hindu funerary rites, the ongoing insistence on open pyres, and the religious
symbolism investing in trees. The staggering quantity of dry wood
required for such practices – preferably even enriched with rare woods
such as sandalwood – is being challenged by today’s environmental realities,
yet emerging alternatives such as electric crematoria are largely seen
as clashing with a consolidated tradition.

Chapter Contributors

  • Albertina Nugteren ( - albertinanugteren) 'Tilburg University, The Netherlands'