The darker side of Nigambodh Ghat

Ashes and remains of the cremations are polluting the Yamuna water of Nigambodh Ghat. Seldom use of CNG and electric cremation are the causes of increasing water pollution, research finds. 

New Delhi

“Raam naam satya hay”  they were saying. A group of people wearing white Kurta, bald head, were carrying the remains of the cremation. Crossing a small temple they reached the stairs of Nigambodh Ghat. They bent forward at the bank of Yamuna, prayed something and put the remains of the cremation to the Yamuna water. Yamuna flowed in her way but the remains stayed at the same spot. This is not a single story of Nigambodh Ghat, this is how the remains of cremations are getting deposited here everyday.

Nigam Bodh Ghat of New Delhi is one of the oldest cremation grounds of the city. It is situated near Kashmiri Gate of New Delhi at the coast of River Yamuna. The myth about this place is that, this ghat is here from the time of Mahabharata. The myth says that the eldest Pandava, Yudhisthira established this place. Another myth regarding the name of this place is Lord Brahma bathed in this place and then he got back his lost memory.

Everyday around 70 pyres burn at Nigambodh Ghat. Though the place has a CNG crematorium along with an electric one, most of the people choose the manual cremation option. The Hindu tradition of putting the ashes and remains into the river water after cremation is polluting Yamuna.

A paper published in International Journal of Advances in Engineering Research named “Status of water quality of river Yamuna at Nigambodh Ghat-a major cremation ground in Delhi, India” written by Simerjit Kaur and Pragati Mehra shows that the water of this place is highly polluted. Shyam Lal, the staff in charge of Nigambodh Ghat said “ it is a religious practice to put the ashes into the water and people do that. If it is polluting the water then we have nothing to do.” He explained the situation that to decrease the pollution, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) established the CNG crematorium but people hardly prefer to use that. Lal added “ people wants manual cremation because religiously that is the best way. We have seven cleaning staffwho work all the day and try to maintain the hygiene of this place.”

Environmentalist Prof C. R. Babu explains “ Yamuna is getting polluted everyday. It is only the rainy season when water flows and the rest of the year there is hardly any water. But the cremations happen 365 days. So the place is highly polluted. The municipality should take some special precaution for this place but they didn’t.” “The environmentalists have pointed out the pollution of Nigambodh Ghat repeatedly but nothing positive happened.”

The place has no proper infrastructure to gather the ashes and remains from the water. Everyday these items get deposited in the water. Previously when Yamuna’s flow was perfect then it was not a problem. But now for many environmental reason Yamuna’s flow has mostly stopped and so the problem increased. Another problem is, there is a cost of cremation. But as many people from various economic background comes here, some people cant afford the price. They take the bodies directly at the bank of the river and burn it by their own. This happens exactly at the river side and nobody clears these cremations. So the burnt woods, ashes and remains go directly to the river.

The families come here don’t chose the CNG or electric cremations because they think according to Hinduism manual cremation is the best way.  Saral Yadav who was there for his uncle’s cremation told “I am a Hindu and I believe that manual cremation is the best way as this the most traditional way. My family things the same and so we have opted this option. I will never prefer any other cremation method. “

The research shows that the Alkalinity of the water here is high and this is claimed to be dangerous. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation(NDMC) councillor of Kashmiri Gate ward Harsh Sharma refused to respond about the pollution situation of Nigambodh Ghat.

The cremations will continue in its own way. Religious believes will stay where it is today. But nobody knows how more polluted Yamuna will become.


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Author: sayantanjourno

A coffee addict. I love to read books. Writing is my passion. I write poems and articles on life. I am a journalist by profession. I write reports on political and social issues. Here you will find some of my writings on various socio-political-economic issues. I love traveling, photography and music. I am doing theater for more than 13 years now. So write to me on Share your perspectives of life and love. Follow me on twitter @SayantanDreamz.

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