When Nderitu Maina joined Langata cemetery nine years ago, he was going to be in charge of what was an already full graveyard. Continue reading “‘What I enjoy most is the point where I turn the body around as it burns,’ Maina speaks about his love for cremation”
Did you know cremation is significantly less expensive than a traditional funeral? With no burial plot, casket or gravestone to purchase, cremation saves grieving families thousands of shillings.
The Kariokor Crematorium is one of the best-known in Kenya.
Attendant Maharaj Samshan gave the Star a picture of the process.
The crematorium charges a flat rate of Sh10,000 for a member and Sh22,500 for a non-Hindu.
Samshan said once a booking is made, the first step is to clean the place.
If it’s going to be at the electric kiln, officers ensure there is sufficient diesel to power it. And if it’s firewood, they stock enough for the job.
“The kiln undergoes maintenance once every year and a body requires about 40 litres of diesel to burn fully.,”he said.
When a hearse arrives, there is a short session for prayers and then the body is transferred onto a trolley and then wheeled to the cremation chamber.
Like a master craftsman, Samshan places the body on an open pyre of wood for those being cremated on wood.
He says the rack must be a few metres off the ground.
The body is placed between logs and sawdust placed beneath the rack to be used to light the fire.
The temperature is 1,000 to 2,000 degrees Celsius.
“Cremation takes one-anda-half hours and involves the burning of the body inside the coffin, in line with Health ministry regulations,” Samshan said.
He says the family selects one member to light the fire.
Families can choose to have their relatives cremated at an open kiln as they watch or at a closed one.
AFTER CREMATION PROCESS
The family can wait for the ashes the same day or go back for them the following day.
If not collected within a certain time frame, the ashes are dispersed in the crematorium grounds.
Maharaj said the few bones left and the ashes can also be taken to the mortuary for collection by relatives in urns.
“The ashes weigh between a half or quarter a kilo,” he said.
Samshan and his colleague do all the work, including chopping firewood, cleaning, maintaining the lawn, pruning trees, preheating the cremators and sorting out paperwork.
WHY DO HINDUS AND SEIKHS CREMATE?
Pandit Trivedi from SSDS temple says Hindus do not believe in the bodily resurrection and the reuniting of each soul with its physical body. They thus place no importance on preserving the corpse, which is the intent of burial in Christianity and Islam.
“The body is the prison of the soul that generates attachments and desires that prevent forward progress towards freedom thats why we (hindus)cremate.
In Hindu funerals, therefore, the role of cremation is to sever the ties of the soul to the body that it is leaving, freeing it to move.
Singh Khalsa-Lakhvir, a former Visual editor at the Star, said Sikhs cremate for spiritual reasons.
Since Sikhs believe that soul is immortal and does not die, he said they burn the physical and mortal remains to totally detach the soul from the body as it journeys back to its Creator.
As per Sikhi, the soul’s divine purpose is to further its journey beyond the physical.
“Cremation is done to confine the physical remains and respectfully and graciously return them to the five elements of which fire is one of them,” Khalsa said.
He noted that cremation is a dignified way to return the body to the earth, and helps absolve the family the burden of the upkeep of the grave or mausoleum. The body, as a temporary vessel for the soul, is humbly surrendered to flames to ensure nothing except its ashes remain behind to return to dust.
BUDDHISM AND CREMATION
Cremation is common among Buddhists. Because the Buddha was himself cremated, many Buddhists chose cremation.
Burial is also permissible.
The most common crematoriums in Nairobi are the Langata crematorium,Hindu crematorium and the Kariokor crematorium.