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Burial instead of cremation

Shivani Azad, `Eco-conscious' Chamoli villagers bury their dead, June 6, 2017: The Times of India

Hundreds of tourists are drawn to Dronagiri mountains in Uttarakhand Himalayas every year. But it is owing to the concerted efforts of people in a small village, who have been working tirelessly towards preserving the hill ecology , that travellers are able to enjoy the beauty of the dense alpine forests.

Named Dronagiri after the mountain range it is nestled in, the village of 65 families is extremely conscious of the need to protect its environment and the practice of burying the dead is followed here, even though the village comprises of Hindus. The rationale behind this, say villagers, who also do not chop trees, is to ensure that smoke from burning pyres does not affect trees that grow in the area at 12,000 feet, especially the Himalayan birch (bhojpatra) whose leaves were used in ancient times as writing paper.

“We don't chop trees. They are sacred to us. We do not burn our dead because the smoke will pollute the hills,“ said Deepa Rawat, pradhan, Dronagiri.To meet the need for firewood, the villagers use only those trees that have fallen of their own accord. “For household needs and firewood, we simply collect the stems of those trees which have fallen naturally or have rotted over time,“ Rawat said.

Appreciating the commitment of this small group to protecting its surroundings, environmentalist Dr Anil Joshi said, “The villagers can teach all of us how to protect the environment. Burial is more ecofriendly than burning because there is no carbon emission.“

Additional commissioner of Garhwal region, Harak Singh Rawat, a native of Dro nagiri village, added, “The area has also been named Uttarakhand's trek of the year. The villagers are committed to preserving its beauty.“

The village has had a long tradition of being ecologicallysensitive. The Dronagiri mountain is regarded by many as the place from where Hanuman broke off the hilltop to carry the Sanjivani booti to revive Lakshman in the Valmiki Ramayana. The villagers of Dronagiri still do not worship Hanuman as they are yet to “forgive“ him for destroying the mountain that they worship.

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