Women take four hours to burn

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“For men it takes about three hours to burn and for women it takes four hours. Do you know why?” asks our friendly guide.

We hazard a guess that women have more flab. We’re not far from the truth.

Pashupatinath temple is the one of most important Shiva Hindu temples in the world, but the temple itself can only be visited if you are Hindu. However, the open-air cremation areas just next-door can be viewed by anyone. It seems a little topsy-turvy that such a significant moment in family life is open for all to watch and has effectively become a tourist attraction.

(The power has just gone out. Suddenly glad my iPad is backlit and charged.)

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After the body has been washed in the sacred, but sluggish, Bagmati river, it is placed on a pile of carefully laid split pine logs. Straw from rice cultivation is used as a type of kindling and is dampened down to produce plumes of smoke. Butter is placed in the mouth. The mouth is believed to be the exit point for the soul and the butter not only nourishes the dead, but presumably has a practical role as a firefighter too.

There are other more discreet observers around the site – these cute little fellows:

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Tomorrow we set off from Kathmandu for Annapurna. We are visiting a slightly different area to last year, so I’m not sure whether I will have signal, but hopefully I will.

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