08/24/2016, 09.16

Varanasi, as Ganges overflows, the dead cremated on rooftops

Rains fall relentlessly for over two months. In Uttar Pradesh they have killed 40 people and forced at least another 100 thousand to flee their homes. For Hindus, a funeral rite on the banks of the sacred river frees the body from the cycle of rebirth.

Lucknow (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The incessant monsoon rains that have been falling for two months in central India have forced Hindus to disrupt the funeral rites on the banks of the Ganges.

Varanasi, the holy city for the Hindu religion (in the state of Uttar Pradesh), is in fact covered by water and the river, where funerals are celebrated, is inacessabile. For this reason the faithful were forced to prepare the funeral pyres on the roofs of private homes.

Shailendra Pandey, spokesman for the state government, said that the ghats [the steps leading to the river] can not be used, therefore, "the cremations are being carried out on the roofs of houses arranged along the river, but with great difficulty".

Varanasi is crossed by the most sacred river in the Hindu religion, whose waters are used for purification and ablutions. The faithful believe that celebrating a burial ritual on the Ganges rids the body of the deceased from the cycle of rebirths.

Witnesses say that similar rains have not "been seen since 1978. The level of the Ganges has grown, the banks are flooded. People pray in the houses or in flooded streets".

The monsoon season falls from July to September. But the intensity of this year's rainfall is quite exceptional and has caused severe damage to both population and infrastructure.

In Uttar Pradesh in recent days at least 40 people have died and 100 thousand were displaced. In the states of Bihar and Assam there are other 150 victims and at least two million people forced to flee their homes. The floods also caused the collapse of a highway bridge between Mumbai and Goa, and the death of about twenty passengers traveling on two buses swallowed by the waters below.

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