6. Wood, Water, and Waste: Material Aspects of Mortuary Practices in South Asia
Albertina Nugteren [+]
Albertina Nugteren’s chapter, which brings the second section to conclusion, maintains a focus on ecology but privileges an analysis of tradition and ritual praxis, namely the burning of bodies as part of the final sacrifice (antyeṣṭi). By relating prescriptive Sanskrit texts to fieldwork conducted in Nepal, the author explores the centrality of fire in Hindu funerary rites, the ongoing insistence on open pyres, and the religious symbolism investing in trees. The staggering quantity of dry wood required for such practices – preferably even enriched with rare woods such as sandalwood – is being challenged by today’s environmental realities, yet emerging alternatives such as electric crematoria are largely seen as clashing with a consolidated tradition.