The Mokshda cremation system, installed recently in Delhi, provides an eco-friendly option to citizens

Recently, a highly influential family reportedly reached Lodhi Road crematorium ground with the mortal remains of their beloved. Along with it they brought 400 kg of precious sandalwood for the purpose of cremation. After all, the last rites ritual is an important occasion to honour and respect the memories of the departed soul. So, even if it takes huge quantity of this valuable timber, so be it.

At the crematorium they came across an eco-friendly cremation system Mokshda, using which they were told could save 300 kg of the wood. They did exactly that, used 100 kg of the wood and took back the rest. But the makers of Mokshda aren't as lucky every time. People are not willing to listen so readily.

“It has taken me 20 years to reach here. Now, people are at least ready to listen to me. The journey ahead is equally long and full of roadblocks but I can't give up,” says Vinod Kumar Aggarwal, Founder-President of Mokshda Paryavaran Evam Van Suraksha Samiti, an organisation that introduced Mokshda Paryavaran Evam Van Suraksha Samiti (MGCS) way back in 1992.

However, in Delhi its first unit was installed as recently as January this year. The basic design of the system works on the principle that the amount of air in it is controlled and wastage of heat is restricted, hence requiring 150 kg of wood as against the 400 kg required in the conventional system.

Aggarwal informs us that the unit installed at Lodhi Road is only a sample to test the waters. “The resistance to this change is more in Delhi as compared to Bombay and Gujarat, where our systems are recording 100 per cent usage,” he says recalling the incident when he witnessed a poor man immersing a dead body in the river as he didn't have money to buy wood.

A mechanical engineer by profession, Aggarwal then gave up everything to look for alternatives which were cheaper and more environment-friendly. It was in Kankhal that MGCS was installed first but recording a poor response they tried it out in Haryana which too witnessed the similar response. “The project was almost shelved for a year. We used that time to introspect on why people were not ready for this change. We realised that we don't know what happens after death. It remains a mystery and hence we don't want to divert from the tradition. People are following what's written in the shastras but they don't realise that wood was easily available those days and wood like kikar had more calorific value, it would burn easily and produce more heat. Also, there were still a few things which needed to be fixed technically.”

Aggarwal did another crucial thing -- he tried to get feedback from a cross-section of society, in particular various religious and spiritual leaders. They gave consent to the system. Today their statements have been turned into banners that adorn the crematorium.

“I wish more and more people see it and get convinced that MGCS remains true to the tradition and the norms prescribed and nothing is being twisted. Anshul Garg, Director of Mokshda, feels that the eco-friendly system also works out to be a cheaper option. “…The entire procedure just takes two hours. It will also act as a deterrent for the poor who because of the lack of sufficient wood dispose of partially burned bodies or even whole corpses in rivers,” he says as he shows the experimental Mokshda pyre to a team from Spain, which is here to study the system and replicate the model for Hindu cremations in Spain.

Mokshda is also applying for carbon credits under Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism which encourages green projects in developing countries.

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