January 14, 2015
Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India
Over 100 bodies are found floating in the River Ganges
The bodies were first discovered when large groups of scavengers — including dogs, crows, and vultures — began congregating in and near the river. Upon closer inspection, it was noted the animals were attracted to the bodies of 104 people, many of whom were children.
Sources speculated the deceased had been given a water burial. The ceremony involves the deceased being wrapped in muslin and sent down a river, their bodies eventually become buried in the river’s bed and banks. As a precaution, local officials investigated to ensure the bodies were not from victims of homicide, a possibility that was ruled out. It is also suspected the waters of the River Ganges receded enough time expose and dislodge the bodies, which were in various states of decomposition, including near total skeletonization.
Water burials are banned in India due to the environmental and health concerns, though the practice is still carried out by those who cannot afford cremation for their loved ones. It is also a common belief that unwed girls and women should not be cremated and given a water burial instead.
The River Ganges originates from a glacier in the Himalayas and is considered by many to be holy. Each year during the Makar Sankranti festival, thousands bathe in the river for ritual purification. The bodies appeared in the river the day before the festival, and efforts were made to quickly remove all the bodies before the festival began.
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