Covered bodies were burning on stone funeral pyres, while family and friends look on from behind. Further up the river a man swept grey ashes into the water, and I watched as the current takes them away. Somewhere a group chanted something, and all around people were walking by, unfazed. Pashupatinath is a a sacred Hindu temple, although it has significance to Buddhism as well. I took a set of steps on the eastern side, which lead away from the river and towards another set of temples, surrounded by trees. A few vendors stand along the pathway, selling items like fruit or beads. Monkeys populated the area and looked at me with curiosity as I passed by. It was quiet and peaceful up at the top, save a few groups of dogs. Couples and friends were hanging out and chatting, which was odd considering that bodies were burning just a stone’s throw away. It seems there is a slightly different relationship with death here compared to the U.S., maybe as a result of religion and age-old traditions. Back home cemeteries are generally avoided, and funerals are strictly private affairs. But here, everything is sort of out in the open, for all to see.
Many Hindu Holy Men, known as sadhu, can be seen at Pashupatinath, sitting on steps of temples and shrines. They have long beards and yellow and red face paint, as you can see above. The sadhu give up all possessions on a journey of enlightenment, and often beg for money for food and necessities. When I approached and asked for a photo, the man in the middle nodded at me and asked for for a donation, which I gave them before snapping the picture. They were clearly used to tourists coming and asking for pictures, and seemed unbothered by it. Though I do wonder what they think of people like me, with our cameras and wide-eyed fascination, whether our presence is welcome or annoying.