Sunlight peeks through the rafters of a cremation ground in Agra. Cremation has long been a vital part of Indian death rituals for both men and women, yet the now illegal practice of Sati once called for widows to make the ultimate sacrifice upon the deaths of their husbands – throwing themselves onto their funeral pyres.
India – Photo Tip

With sensitive subject matter, always ask permission

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

India – Photo Tip With sensitive subject matter, always ask permission

Photographing a funeral or cremation? I would never dare enter this very private moment or photograph this final farewell without permission or a direct invitation from the family first.

Jochem Wijnands
Jochem Wijnands Founder / photographer

The Hindu peoples of Bali and India view death as a natural part of life, and it is not surrounded by the same kind of grieving other cultures, especially our western one, tend to display. Hindus believe the soul transmigrates to another body after death. They believe that, at the end of your life, you shed your old body and find a new one to occupy; that the body is just something to wear for a limited time.

The ultimate goal of the cycle of death and rebirth is to reach a state of being called moksha, which is similar to the Buddhist notion of nirvana. Once you’ve shed all desires your soul will be liberated from life and suffering.

I photographed a number of cremations in India and always sought permission from the family first (which was always granted with a smile). Some families felt honored by this request and other felt inspired to explain reincarnation and Hindu beliefs to me. For the funeral pyre in this photograph, I was unable to ask permission because the family had already left.

India, Agra

Derived from the Sanskrit word muc (“to free”), the term moksha literally means freedom from samsara (the material world). Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

NIKON D3

Aperture
ƒ/5/1
Exposure
1/125
ISO
800
Focal
14/1 mm

Derived from the Sanskrit word muc (“to free”), the term moksha literally means freedom from samsara (the material world).

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