A park made of the ashes of 6,000 Covid victims has been hailed as an environmentally friendly way to pay tribute to those who died in India’s second wave.
When Bhadbhada Vishram Ghat crematorium in Bhopal began burning 100 to 150 bodies a day at the peak of the country’s outbreak, it quickly became overwhelmed with urns.
Most of the ashes went uncollected by family members leaving manager Mamtesh Sharma, 51, concerned about space.
In accordance with Hindu tradition, the usual course of action would have been to scatter them into the nearby Narmada river as part of a cremation ritual.
But Sharma did not want to pollute the waters with such a huge quantity of ash in one go.
“At the height of the second wave after we had been burning 100 to 150 bodies a day, we had to keep making space,” he told South China Morning Post.
“We added more and more lockers in which we keep the urns. Once we made space for 500 lockers. Then we added another locker room. Now there isn’t any space left but we need space for other cremations.
The solution Sharma came up with instead was to mix the ashes with soil, sand, wood sawdust, and cow dung spread them across the 12,000 sq ft of nearby wasteland.
The stretch of land has now been transformed into a memorial park where visitors can pay respects to the dead.
Last week, Hindu priests chanted prayers and draped orange marigolds over some of the urns before mixing the ashes into the ground.
Soon hundreds of saplings will be planted using the Japanese Miyawaki technique, in which seeds are sown very close together to create dense woods.
Sharma said many residents in the city have reached out to him offering to help with planting the saplings over the coming months.
He hopes the park will be a place where people can go to reflect peacefully on the past year and pay their respects to the dead.
It comes after the country’s crippling second wave forced families to perform rushed and undignified last rites for their loves ones.
At its peak, India was recording 400,000 infections a day and more than 4,000 deaths a day.