April 24, 2001
The cremation rites are, of necessity, public. Tourists may watch and photograph from the opposite bank, but it’s hoped they’ll do so quietly and respectfully. Every deceased --- rich, poor, or nobility --- comes to the riverbank on a simple bamboo stretcher, wrapped in a simple shroud. Coffins are only for those who died far away and needed to be brought home for their farewell. Many families do everything themselves; higher castes may hire others to make the preparations. By tradition, the eldest son lights his father’s funeral pyre.
My guide pointed to a large stone building, looking much like a hotel, overlooking the river. It was, he said, an ancient form of hospice --- a place where the hopelessly ill could die in peace, next to a river that would carry their ashes to the purifying waters of the Ganges.
From journal Three Magic Days in Kathnandu