The Doms, the Hindu caste group tasked with handling the last rites of the dead, live in bastis or ghettos, concentrated in dwellings cut away from the main city.
Chand Ghat, situated close to the cremation grounds where they make their livelihood.
In Chand Ghat, the living quarters are cramped, the surroundings are often less than sanitary, and everyday life remains untouched by the wave of religious and political attention that grips the rest of the city.
Frequently, Doms – occupying some of the lowest rungs in Hindu caste society – are shunned in crowded marketplaces if recognised and treated without respect anywhere outside their congested living areas, making their movement outside less than free.
This is truer for Dom women than anyone else, who cannot go to the city unaccompanied by men from their families, and even then, they must cover their heads and bodies with a large sheet worn over their regular clothes.
deplorable working conditions: in the heat, Dom men often work through the day amidst raging fires for little money, forced to turn to substance abuse to cope.
The ashes and remains from the ghats often make their way into the river, where Dom men sieve through the sludge for anything valuable – fragments of melted gold or silver, or any scrap of metal that can resold for a paltry sum.
It is a livelihood devoid of both dignity and financial security: between their families and a future of uncertain struggle lies only one unfortunate event, made worse by the fact that most Dom men do not live very long.
Dom children often run between rows of burning pyres to steal the red chunri off of dead bodies which if intact, can fetch them ten or 20 rupees.
Out of the 84 ghats that line the banks of the Ganges in Benaras, two are dedicated to performing the last rites of the deceased, where bodies trickle in throughout the day at a steady pace.
The first is Manikarnika Ghat, where pyres burn through the night, its entrance crowded with shops that sell wood and other religious paraphernalia.
There is also Harishchandra Ghat, where in addition to the space for traditional funerals is an electric crematorium, initially heavily subsidised upon opening and then eventually made free by the government in order to curb the pollution caused by the burning of thousands of corpses every year.
Glasp is a social web highlighter that people can highlight and organize quotes and thoughts from the web, and access other like-minded people’s learning.