City Landmark – Ram Bagh Mukti Dham, Khandsa Village, Gurgaon
A cremation ground in an unusual setting.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A soft warm breeze is blowing with a sai-sai sound through the tree leaves. The golden sunflowers are blooming radiantly in the hedges. The ground is bare of grass. The benches are empty. In the center stands a blue statue of Lord Shiva.
The cremation ground of Ram Bagh Mukti Dham is nestled in an unlikely setting. It doesn’t give the vibes of mukti (freedom). Usually places of such nature lie by a river or a small stream. The Mukti Dham, however, lies right in the middle of the Millennium City’s humdrum. This open expanse in Gurgaon’s Khandsa village in the Greater Delhi Region is ringed by tall buildings and a busy expressway.
To be sure, Khandsa is only technically a village. At one time it must have been a believable rural hamlet with agricultural fields and tree-filled orchards. Today, it’s just another part of the sprawling metropolis. In fact, a business tower with a great many number of floors looms up right beside the cremation ground.
This afternooon, the shallow pits sheltered under ramshackle tin roofs in which cremations are performed are empty. The pits lie blackened, probably a consequence of round-the-year cremations.
Turns out that the cremation ground isn’t totally empty. Two men are sleeping on facing benches. One of them gets up after a while. Lazily rubbing his eyes, he mutters that this has been a shamshan ghat (cremation ground) for hundreds of years. “People’s journeys end here,” he remarks philosophically. He says he works in a tire puncture repair shop nearby and has come here for a nap. He lies down again on the bench and closes his eyes.
The other man continues to sleep.
A small camp is rustled out just beside the entrance. A single lamp is glowing from the roof and casting faint light over a makeshift bed. This might be the home of the ground’s caretaker — though no one is in the camp at the moment.
Meanwhile, a bird is perched atop Shiva’s feet, while Shiva himself is looking on beatifically at the traffic on the busy road outside the gate, as if waiting for some soul wanting to attain mukti.