Endless puffs of smoke slowly wrap around the spires and pagodas of Lord Shiva’s temple. In Kathmandu death is not a failure, hidden behind green curtains and a cloud of desinfectant mist. When hope for a longer life is fading, the ambulance steers not towards the hospital, but towards the temple. Family is not called two days afterwards when making funeral arrangements, but on the spot. By the upstream waters of the river Ganges, friends, family, and colleagues flock to wish the departer well. While the ambulance zooms between temple buildings, orange flowers are bought and offerings to the Divine given. Loved ones wait by the water as the car reverses down the slope, doors open, and the dying exhales one last time with feet touching the water, draped in orange and covered in flowers.
Side by side with other dead, the spirit is set free from the body by fire and smoke. As the wisps linger between the pagodas I think of how many spirits make that final circle above the city each day.
In Nepal, death is not a taboo. It is not hidden, excused for, or feared. Death is simply a point of transmutation like midnight: a new day begins, both for the departed and those continuing their current dharma.