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‘Green’ Cow Dung Cremation Big In India

Glad tidings from BBC News:

Cow dung cremations catch on in Bihar

By Amarnath Tewary
BBC News, Patna, Bihar

In India’s remote north-east, the people of the state of Bihar have devised a novel and environmentally friendly way to cremate their dead. Where traditionally only the wood from a mango tree was used to fuel the funeral fire in this part of India, now people are making do with cow dung as an alternative source of fuel.

It may sound outlandish but this unique local innovation is not only catching on fast but has achieved widespread social acceptance. Annual flooding in two districts of of northern Bihar has meant that access to mango trees is restricted. Entire mango orchards have been swept away by the flood waters.

The new system is known as the "goraha" way of cremation. Cow dung is fashioned into a long rod-shaped cake, locally known as goraha. Goraha is easily available and coming from herbivorous cattle, acceptable in sacred terms too. All this has helped Biharis opt for this new method of cremation.

There are many factors behind the new development. The ritual of the funeral fire consumes on average an entire mango tree. Besides being less cumbersome and environmentally destructive, the use of cow dung cakes is also more economical…

Under the new method of goraha cremation, people dig a large pit and arrange long rod-shaped cow dung cakes in rows set in three tiers. The lowest tier comprises three horizontal rows arranged in a scaffolding pattern and an additional fourth layer is added when the soil is moist.

Pressure is exerted on the lower layers which breaks into smaller pieces and help absorb the soil moisture. The lowest tier serves as the podium on which the corpse is laid in a sitting posture to minimize the surface area. A small space is left between tiers to light the pyre through performing the rituals.

The flame gradually reaches the lower layers and sets the whole body alight instantly.

About 200kg of cow dung cakes are used for burning a corpse compared with about 240-280kg of mango wood.

"Under this system the whole body gets disposed of within one-and-half-hours, whereas in the traditional system mourners needed to be at the funeral site for three to four hours".

One has to spend only 400-500 rupees ($6-$8) in the goraha system as opposed to between 3,000 – 4,000 rupees ($62-$83) in the traditional mango-wood cremation of a dead body," said Shambhu Ram, a college employee who cremated one of his deceased relatives using the goraha one year ago…

Environmentalists say this new trend of cremation also saves mango trees from further depletion – something this flood-prone region has been distinctive for.

What a wonderful leap forward for Mother Earth.

Of course one wonders why the environmentalists even allow this. Since bodies are carbon based – and the dung must have a lot of methane, isn’t this still poisoning the planet.

And how come they are allowed to keep their sacred cows?

We aren’t.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, September 27th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “‘Green’ Cow Dung Cremation Big In India”

  1. Diane says:

    Internet ads serving malware

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    Again, I apologize if this is inappropriate, but since it hit me here I wanted to warn others on the site.

  2. Liberals Demise says:

    Well whoop-T-dodo!!
    They will starve to death before they will have a steak with A-1 Sauce but send off their loved ones in a cloud of “Van Jones” fumes.
    Go figure!

  3. canary says:

    Well, I guess it’s away their reincarnated relatives living inside cows, can
    turn cow patties ashes into cow patties dust.


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