Sivanandan Ghat in Durban, South Africa

Contents

1 Background of the Ghat
2 Purpose of the Ghat
3 Operation of the Ghat
4 Appearance of the Ghat

Background of the Ghat
Durban is rich with religious landscapes that are symbolic of what each culture has to offer and what holds the significance of unique practices and belief. The Sivanandan Ghat is such a symbol, it is a post-cremation public facility situated alongside the Umngeni River, next to the Clare Estate Hindu Crematorium. It was a creation from the Divine Life Society of South Africa. In undertaking the Ghat Project, the society had to comply with many town planning and environmental rules, nevertheless the much needed facility was a success. Cremation is a practice of burning the body after death instead of burial and is mostly practiced by Hindus and to a lesser extent by other cultures.

Purpose of the Ghat
Generally after cremation the ashes are either thrown into the ocean at Durban beaches and or into rivers. The Ghat is a peaceful alternative. If offers a safe and dignified facility for disposing the ashes of all race groups. Amazingly it is also used by Christians and Africans, a great notion of a diverse yet unifying culture in Durban.

Operation of the Ghat
There is a Ganga Fountain which contains two basins. The Ganga fountain is made up of water from the Ganges River, which has the amazing ability to purify itself. The ashes of the deceased are then placed into one of the two basins. The ashes are then transported through a pipe link directly to the Umgeni River. While the ashes are being placed into the basin members of the family pour Ganga water into the basin and chant mantras, which is the calling of God while walking around the fountain eight times. Hindus believe in the even numbers as good luck. Christian people also pour Ganga water into the basin while chanting verses from the Bible. The advantages of the Ghat are that it offers the departed souls the grace of the Ganga, whose holy water is poured into the basin and secondly the Umgeni River also gets purified and sanctified by the Ganga water. The devotees of the Ghat then feed the poor. Thereafter every first day of the month an All Souls Day prayer is performed in memory of the deceased where their names are cited.

Appearance of the Ghat
The Ghat is made up of halls which are named after the founders of the Divine Life Society, Swami Sivananda Hall and the Vishwananda Hall. Swami is the title given to a spiritual head or master. Besides being a post-burial facility it is also a cultural centre. There are displays in illumination of birds, flowers, nature and animals accompanied by inspirational sayings of the Swamis. There are shrines of all forms of God including Jesus Christ. There are two shrines of the Ganga Mata which are mounted on the Ganga fountain with its two water sprays and two basins. It is a beautiful and peaceful atmosphere which is becoming a tourist attraction in Durban.

Written by Yoveshine Pillay

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