Amid mounting Covid deaths Manikarnika ghat in Varanasi set to expand

Varanasi, June 11 (IANS) The Manikarnika Ghat, one of the most sacred cremation grounds, is now being expanded with 18 more pyre frames on three platforms as death counts due to Covid refuses to subside.
Two green crematoriums, also known as greenatorium, enabling last rites with wood in electric crematorium, are also being installed under the ongoing Kashi Vishwanath Dham (Corridor) project.
The company executing the KV Dham project has started civil work, including constructing retaining walls of the expanded platforms at the cremation ground at war footing.
Old structures, including the steps leading to Manikarnika Ghat and its old platforms, have been demolished.
Divisional Commissioner Deepak Agrawal said, “Manikarnika Ghat is being renovated with 18 new pyre frames as part of KV Dham project. The cost of the renovation is included in the total cost budget Rs 339 crore of the KV Dham project, sanctioned for all construction work. The project is likely to be completed by November 15.”
Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said, “Six new pyre frames will come on three platforms each downstairs for traditionally cremating the bodies along the Ganga bank. It will be handed over to the Dom Raja family after completion.”
He said that this will end the practice of burning bodies in an unorganized way and on the silt deposited near ghats following the flood season. Existing pyres under tin-shade with chimneys are not being disturbed and two greenatoriums are also being constructed.
Municipal Commissioner Gaurang Rathi said, “The greenatoriums comprise the facility of setting body on wood to burn in electric furnaces. It will enable people to perform traditional rituals on pyres. It reduces use of wood up to 80 per cent, which also brings down the cost of cremation. The site for establishing the greenatoriums at Manikarnika Ghat will be finalized soon.”
Some groups, including one led by Baba Shamshan Nath Mandir Seva Samiti manager, Gulshan Kapoor, have opposed electric crematorium at Manikarnika Ghat. They have claimed that ‘Shastras’ do not allow this.
The second wave of the pandemic has seen an unexpected rise in the number of deaths, leading to long queues for cremations. With the expansion of the cremation facilities, people will no longer have to wait in queues to perform last rites.

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