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'Ab Lockdown ke Baad hi Milega': How Covid-19 Has Blocked Road to 'Moksha' as Lockers Brim with Ashes

In the image, the lockers at the Baikunth Dham can be seen full with the ashes of the deceased. (Image: Qazi Ahmed Faraz)

In the image, the lockers at the Baikunth Dham can be seen full with the ashes of the deceased. (Image: Qazi Ahmed Faraz)

Besides immersion of ashes, the issue of lack of availability of mango tree wood has further marred the entire process of cremation based on Hindu beliefs.

Qazi Faraz Ahmad
  • News18
  • Last Updated: April 30, 2020, 12:54 PM IST
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Lucknow: The lockers of the now-desolate Baikunth Dham in Lucknow are brimming with the “asthi” (ashes) as families of the deceased are unable to collect them for immersion in the Holy river as the stringent coronavirus lockdown has impaired movement. The crematorium lies almost empty along river Gomti since the nationwide shutdown came into force.

The caretaker of the lockers, Arvind, told News18 that the chests had never been so full ever before. “As per Hindu rituals, the ashes must be taken directly for immersion in Ganga river, but due to the lockdown, people are unable to travel. Some go to Gaya, some go to Prayag while some go to Ayodhya. The lockers here, which never used to be occupied to their capacity, are now packed to the core. At the moment we have around 150 to 200 ‘asthi-kalash’ stored in these lockers.”

As per Hindu traditions, it is believed that a soul attains ‘moksha’ or salvation once the ashes are immersed in the Holy Ganga after the cremation.

“There is a decrease in the number of bodies coming for cremation, it keeps varying every day. We have nowhere to store the ‘asthi-kalash’ apart from these lockers. Those who manage to get permission they take the ashes for immersion, but such people are very less,” Arvind said.

The lockers at the Baikunth Dham, also known as Bhainsa Kund, are managed by a private firm and people have reportedly requested them to keep the ‘asthi-Kalash’ of their loved ones till the time lockdown is in place.

“We have not received any dead body till now whose cause of death was coronavirus. There was one suspected body yesterday but that was cremated in the electric crematorium. People working at the crematorium are still apprehensive about the last rites of a person who had died due to COVID-19. You speak to anyone here about cremating such a body and the person will immediately run away from you,” said a priest sitting outside the wood store.

“Usually wood from mango tree is used in the last rites, but at the moment there is no definite supply of mango tree wood. Hence, people are using whatever wood they are getting for the purpose,” said a man sitting beside the priest.

The Lucknow Municipal Corporation’s counter for facilitating death certificates at the Baikunth Dham is not functional since the lockdown started. A middle-aged man sitting outside the LMC office said, “This office is closed since lockdown started, no body from LMC has come here since then. So how will people get the death certificates? The priest is noting down all the details in the register, so whenever the office opens up, death certificates will be issued then. Ab to bhaiya lockdown ke baad hi Moksh Milega (Now Moksh will attained only after the lockdown),” he said.

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