Earthen pots hung on a Peepal tree, usually near the cremation grounds, is a rarity in normal times.
As per Hindu tradition, the ashes placed in the earthen pot, called 'Ghant' is hung on a Peepal tree until the ashes are immersed.
Usually, a tree has two to three Ghant hanging on them at a time. These are usually of those whose children are abroad and cannot return immediately for cremation. Today, however, with the pandemic raging on and the death toll mounting, the number of 'ghant' hanging on Peepal tree is growing by the day.
"There are more than two dozen 'ghant' hanging here. People are not coming back to collect the ashes of their family members and we cannot discard them. Maybe, after waiting for a few more days, we will immerse them in the river," said Krishna (name changed on request) a worker at the Gulala cremation ghat in Lucknow.
He said that the Covid scare was so great that there have been at least three instances in the past one week where the relatives have left the bodies at the cremation ground without cremating them because they were asked to wait for their turn.
While hanging a 'ghant' is a traditional way of keeping the ashes till the immersion is done, some cremation grounds have also got lockers where the urn can be kept. "Our lockers are full and people now put a slip with the name of the deceased and hang the pot on the tree," said Alok, a worker at the Parmat Ghat in Kanpur.
Workers at the cremation grounds say that here is no time to perform pre-cremation rituals that include chanting of mantras. "We now do the basics and the pyre is set on fire because there are bodies waiting in the queue. Even the cremation of non-Covid bodies is being rushed up. It is a sad situation but the fact is that no one - not even the closest relatives, want to stay at the cremation ground
Abhimanyu Tiwari, a priest at Rasoolabad ghat in Prayagraj, said, "We are performing cremation for around 60-70 bodies every day and more than half of them are not able to perform the last rites. Still, there are so many Ghant tied on the tree that just a look makes a person shiver."
No, post-death rituals
Post-death rituals are also being done away with. "When my father died last week, my mother-in-law, husband and sister-in-law had also tested positive. They are all in home isolation and there is no question of even holding a prayer meeting for my father-in-law," said Nalini Singh, a young homemaker.
Most of the people, in whose families deaths have taken place, are not holding the 'Tehraveen' ritual that is held on the 13th day of the death.
"There is no point because people cannot attend the ritual which is actually a kind of farewell feast in memory of the deceased. We will hold a prayer meeting when things normalize," said Nishant Mehrotra, who lost both his parents to Covid this month.