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COVID-19 Pushes Demand For Sustainable Renewable Energy: Crematorium Shows The Way – By Rajiv Kakriya

Environment Friendly Zero Wood Send Off For Our Loved Ones. Dry Cow Dung Cakes Has An Answer

While in Lockdown due to Covid 19, I got the sad news of the passing of my friend’s mother. Being a neighbour I decided to accompany them for cremation, not many were allowed permission due to Lockdown, so there were just the countable of us. It was an eerie sight, I have never seen the place so empty, as prior to us just one solitary cremation had taken place that day. What struck me even more was that all the cremation bays had piles of Cow Dung Cakes (UPLA in Hindi).

Meanwhile Pandit ji (the priest) started performing the last Rrtes by chanting of mantras, while his helpers dragged in a rickshaw full of Uplas. I took a stroll towards the stockpile of godown and to my surprise there was no trace of any wood. My friend also asked about the wood and we were informed that for the past couple of months Nehru Place Crematorium in Delhi, has totally switched to Uplas with great success and acceptance.

After the body was confined to flames we noticed that the flames did not rise too high nor was there too much smoke. I was informed that the Calorific Value of Upla is almost twice that of wood. A human dead body that completely turns to ashes in 6-7 hours while burning through wood takes just 3-4 hours through Upla. As for the cost, the priest informed, it is just an average of what used to be the cost of wood. The crematorium regularly get truck-loads of cow dung to make Uplas from Gaushalas ( cow shed).


The priest explained that the use of  Upla for cremation is in total conformity with Hindu belief system. According to the Hindu scriptures human body is a combination of five elements i.e Jal (water), Vayu (air), Prithvi (earth), Agni (fire) and Aakash (sky), which is also an essential part of human existance. The human body is dedicated to the fire element through these Upla to complete its journey of life and death, the priest elaborated.

Green Cremation is the need of the hour and has been on my mind for long.  Movement for wood free cremation was suggested to me during the agitation of our NGO, Chetna, to save 16,500 trees once when these were being chopped for initiating a Metro project in New Delhi. The suggestion was to take the movement to Varanasi cremation Ghats at the banks of river Ganges to the Dom raja (care takers of cremation grounds) of Mannikarnika Ghat (cremation ground at Varanasi), the keeper of Sacred Eternal Flame used to light the payer. If the Dom Raja can be persuaded to shift to a more eco-friendly mode of cremation using Uplas, Hindus across communities will willingly accept the alternative.


Electric crematorium is indeed an alternative to wood but due to limited facilities and big investments it is yet to become popular option of cremation. In villages and remote areas availability of continuous electric supply and  people’s reservation has discouraged the electric crematorium as a sustainable solution. Although our dream to carry on agitation till the cremation ghats at banks of Ganges in Varanasi could not see the light of the day but replacing cow dung upla with wood for cremation should be promoted by the government and the cremation-ground keepers as the tradition loving people should not have problems in accepting this Upla as an option of wood.

Not only will this go a long way in saving cows that have become old but also save the male calf’s that are sent for slaughter. This would also go a long way in disposal of Cow Dung much to the relief of numerous cow shelters struggling to maintain hygiene in the Gaushalas.  It will further create a market for CowBuffaloBull Dung Uplas and help supplement the farmer’s income.


(The views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion, beliefs and view point of the owners of

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