Human Flower Project
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
In Mass Mourning
The world grieves for thousands who died after Sunday’s earthquake off the western coast of Sumatra.
A burial ground in Cuddalore, India.
Photo: Arko Datta for Reuters
Sunday’s violent earthquake on the western edge of Indonesia has killed tens of thousands of people in 11 countries across Asia and Africa.
Flower petals were scattered off the southern coast of India, to remember and bless those who disappeared at sea. But death on this scale makes the sacred and ancient rites of burial impossible, another cruel fact of life for survivors. Across Indonesia and South India, many of the dead must be buried before they can even be identified, unceremoniously, in the interest of public health.
This photograph by Claude Renault gives some sense of the how people in Tamil Nadu customarily mourn the dead—a funeral in Kanchipuram.
And here is a Buddhist prayer from Sri Lanka.
Pujemi Buddham kusumena ‘nena
punnena ‘metena ca hotu mokkham
Puppham milayati yatha idam me
kayo tatha yati vinasabahavam.
This mass of flowers endowed with color, fragrance, and quality
I offer at the lotus-like feet of the King of Sages.
I worship the Buddha with these flowers:
by the merit of this may I attain freedom.
Even as these flowers do fade,
so does my body come to destruction.