cremation Death Ethics Eco-Death

Save a Mango Tree: Incinerate Amma in Cow Dung

Cow Dung Cremations Catch On in Bihar
Amarnath Tewary, BBC News (September 27, 2009)

Ongoing floods and a subsequent depletion of mango trees, the traditional cremation fuel for the people of Bihar, India, has led to the use of cow dung in funeral pyres. Readily available and culturally acceptable (coming from a sacred animal, and all), the practice is gaining social acceptance and is even touted as environmentally friendly — no more laying to waste swaths of scarce mango groves only to light them afire.

The cow dung process takes an hour and a half compared to the usual 3–4 hours and is also considerably cheaper. A cow dung cremation will run you $6–$8, compared to the traditional mango tree sendoff at $62–$83. (Average cremation cost in the US: about $1500–$4000.)

Come to think of it, this is so obvious and sensible the fact that cow dung has entered into the cremation equation hardly seems worth mentioning at all. In other words, is this really that shocking and gross? I don’t know — I don’t think so. I do wonder, though, the real extent to which the practice has been embraced — and not just seen as a necessity or an option bright-sided (it’s efficient! it’s green!) out of desperation.

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