City Landmark – Lodhi Road Crematorium, Central Delhi
Where we go to.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Shareer (body) is a khet (farm field), atma (soul) is the kisan (farmer), and paap (sin) and poornya (merit) are two beej (seeds). The line is inscribed on the backrest of a bench donated by a certain Prashant Nagpal. Frankly speaking, this is the kind of place one hopes to steer clear of as long as possible.
Owing to its nearness to Delhi’s VVIP homes, Lodhi Road crematorium pops up in the news each time a very very important person passes to the great unknown. The cremation ground’s true name is Dayanand Muktidham, and is entered through Lala Lajpat Rai Road, which does intersect, some distance away, with the aforementioned Lodhi Road. The crematorium’s gateway faces the CBI headquarters, and is topped with a gently ascending slope, as if to facilitate the soul to climb to a higher place. A stretch of the long boundary wall is painted with a series of birds, their white wings flapped open, as if perched on the precipice of a profound departure.
Here is a sense of the revered place, as experienced by reading some of its many signages.
On a banner under a tin shed:
“… in an ever changing world, there is nothing worthwhile for us to desire, or weep, for joys and sorrows are bound to come….”
On a shed in the cremation area:
“Main kaun hoon? (Who am I?)”
Excerpts from a Hindi poem inscribed in memory of Shrimati Seema Tandon of Akriti Apartments in IP Extension:
“… The pyres burn laughingly every day,
So many happy worlds are burned,
So many hopes are erased…”
Over the drinking water taps:
“Dehdan (donating a body) is important for the education and research of medical students.”
On the banner of the crematorium’s canteen:
“Water, neembu paani and cold drinks are available. Bisleri mineral water is also sold.”
On a plaque beside a gate:
“Improvements done by BSES Rajdhani Power Limited:
Renovation and carpeting in prayer and condolence halls
Renovation of visitors sheds
Steel chairs with armrest
Exhaust fans at pyre area”
On a wall in the cremation area,:
“Asthiyan (bones) can be kept here for a month, after which they will be immersed in the Ganga. Note: Keeping the ashes is prohibited.”
On the boundary wall:
“Sarve karmvasha vayam (Karma controls all)”
By the entrance:
A sobering destination