Graves, Tombs and Cremation grounds

In preparation for my final project which is based around the tomb of Jamali-Kamali (Jamali Dehlavi being a 16th century Indian Sufi poet and Kamali being an unknown person he is buried next to), I have been thinking about eternality and what societies and religions choose to value.

Unknown Soldier from World War I being taken from the USS Olympia at the Washington Navy Yard and transported to the US Capitol to lay in state. On November 11, 1921 the body was intered at Arlington National Cemetery (photographed by E.B. Thompson)

There are the tombs of unknown soldiers in the US or the remembrance poppy flower pins in the UK. The zoroastrian Fire Temples where bodies are consumed by vultures, the tantric buddhist Gompas where monks are laid in seated meditative postures with people going to look for their reincarnations and there is the ‘Capsula Mundi’ project by the Italian designers that comes on the heels of the environmental movement.

There is also the famous ‘Dia de los Muertos’ celebration in Mexico that has been adapted by various films such as ‘The Book of Life (2014)’ and ‘Coco (2017)’ or games like the now iconic ‘Grim Fandango (1998)’ a click-and-point adventure a beautiful late 90s noir low poly 3D aesthetic.

There is late British author Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series, which injects the fantasy world with heavy dose of dry British humor. Here DEATH appears as a character, has wants and needs, feels loss, regret, boredom and even adopts a child. The series has been adapted into animation and games that attempt to capture this unique perspective.

When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, she had a Sikh/Hindu funeral where her body was burned on a pyre by my father and uncle with my either family standing around, crying and singing prayers. To me seeing her body disappear into the flame and then picking up her ashes including pieces of unburnt bones with my hands was part of the healing process and getting closure. I know the thought of this would irk most western people where death is hidden behind closed coffins and make-up and cremation urns. So now in India there is a debate over a traditional funeral or an electric cremation.

Chaitanya Tamhane and Somnath Pal’s short ‘Death of a father’ follows Pal’s experiences when his father passes away and is burned using electric cremation.

The film I’m working on is around an Indian Sufi tomb, which has a complex relationship with death to put it mildly, I hope I am able to do it justice.

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