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Construction : Special Project | March 2018 | Source : CW-India

Mahaprasthanam in Hyderabad gets revamped into a state-of-the-art modern crematorium

Often unhygienic, unclean and chaotic, burial grounds and crematoriums fall into desolation, end up being encroached upon or even turn into dumping grounds.

When Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) approached Phoenix Foundation under the aegis of the'Fund Your City' programme to undertake the cleaning of crematoriums, Suresh Chukkapalli, Chairman, Phoenix Group, suggested they completely revamp an existing crematorium to make it more modern, accessible and user-friendly. One such neglected crematorium identified by GHMC was at Shaikpet in Hyderabad. As a CSR initiative, Phoenix undertook a complete makeover of this facility, a first-of-its-kind in India.

'The crematorium was envisioned as a PPP,' says Srikanth Badiga, Director, Phoenix Group. 'The crematorium sprawls across 3.7 acre in Hyderabad developed at nearly Rs 3 crore.

This equipped modern electrical crematorium called Mahaprasthanam was initiated in 2013.'

The idea
To give the departed a respectful, final journey, the project is built on the three conceptual pillars of 'Embrace','Honour' and'Farewell' and this is the idea the modernisation plan wishes to convey. To comfort the bereaved, the crematorium building takes an embracing shape, bowing to honour the departed soul and bidding fond farewell.

'The buildings and places have a deep connection to the way a human feels in that kind of a condition,' says Architect IS Pradeepthi of DA Studios.

'In modern architecture, we try to establish and clearly see the functions of the space. For a crematorium, you have to understand the different needs of this space, all the provisions it should have. So, without any disturbance or hindrance, we made a list of 10-12 functions with each given a space to cater to.'

A sustainable initiative
The Mahaprasthanam crematorium adheres to the'Go Green, Go Clean' imperative of being environment-friendly in every way. The whole crematorium has been planted with trees and greenery, rendering a lush park-like feel. The crematorium complex itself comprises three traditional pyres and one state-of-the-art electrical pyre, offering a pollution-free solution. 'There is one pyre that still exists, which belongs to the earlier crematorium,' says Ar Pradeepthi. 'This has been given a facelift.'

High-quality prefabricated materials that are environment-friendly and fully recyclable have been used for construction. In addition, Badiga shares, 'The crematorium has over 50 LED lights, which completely run on solar power installed on site. This simple change has brought about a power saving of over 40 per cent on site.'  Pradeepthi further explains, 'For water pumping, there is one bore well on the side to take care of needs on site, including watering the plants and drip irrigation system. There are three rainwater harvesting pits.'

Modern amenities
At Mahaprasthanam, while ensuring that the cremation is done in a hygienic way, the idea was to create a helpful ambience. This included landscaped gardens with ample walking area; waiting halls attached to the pyres; storage lockers for the ashes; a ceremonial yard, which is a dedicated area for offering pindam; parking facility for around 75 cars; a cold-room facility to keep bodies before cremation; washrooms and changing rooms; piped spiritual music; adequate security with guards and CCTV cameras; RO drinking water for visitors and a full-fledged canteen facility; a bookstore with spiritual books; vehicle transportation (mortuary van and hearse facility); a dedicated in-house pujari to perform the ceremonies and rituals; and a dedicated store for ritual requirements. 'The latest audiovisual equipment and Wi-Fi along the entire site enables live recording and uploading of the ceremony for loved ones from any part of the world,' says Badiga.

Befittingly, a sense of calm and peace is all-pervasive at Mahaprasthanam. 'Lush greenness is everywhere, giving the pyres privacy,' concludes Badiga.

The Government of Telangana has announced a plan to build 4,000 such crematoriums in the state; fittingly, Phoenix Foundation is the knowledge partner for this initiative. Apart from these, there are close to 40 crematoria that need an urgent face lift. The firm is now getting requests from several state governments to help implement this mission of modernising crematoria in their respective states.

Embrace, Honour, Farewell…
These are the core principles that have driven the revamp of Mahaprasthanam, a state-of-the-art modern crematorium in Hyderabad.

Despite the stated respect for the departed in our scriptures and rituals, burial grounds and crematoriums are highly neglected in most cities. Often unhygienic, unclean and chaotic, these spaces fall into desolation, end up being encroached upon or even turn into dumping grounds. To redress this situation, Phoenix Foundation has embarked upon an initiative to modernise crematoriums in Hyderabad, as well as the rest of the country.

When Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) approached Phoenix Foundation under the aegis of the ‘Fund Your City’ programme to undertake the cleaning of crematoriums, Suresh Chukkapalli, Chairman, Phoenix Group, went one step further and suggested they completely revamp an existing crematorium to make it more modern, accessible and user-friendly. One such neglected and dilapidated crematorium was identified by the GHMC at Shaikpet in Hyderabad. As a CSR initiative, Phoenix Group undertook a complete makeover of this facility to create an impact on the community and environment, a first of its kind in India.
“A complete state-of-the-art modern crematorium was envisioned as a PPP,” says Srikanth Badiga, Director, Phoenix Group. “No stone has been left unturned to achieve the highest standards to give the departed soul a loving and dignified cremation. The crematorium sprawls across a total 3.7 acre at Shaikpet, Hyderabad, and the total cost involved in the facelift was nearly Rs 3 crore. This equipped modern electrical crematorium called Mahaprasthanam was initiated in 2013, intended as an inspiration for time beyond.”

The idea
Mahaprasthanam is a manifestation of deepest respect and remembrance of the fondest, most cherished memories with the deceased. To give the departed a respectful, final journey, the project is built on the three conceptual pillars of ‘Embrace’, ‘Honour’ and ‘Farewell’ and this is the idea the modernisation plan wishes to convey. To comfort the bereaved, the crematorium building takes an embracing shape, bowing to honour the departed soul and bidding fond farewell.

Badiga explains further:
  • Eternal embrace - Prayaschitta Karma: This is the procession where the family and close friends and family carry the body to the cremation site. Hence, a form was envisioned that embraces and reminds the living of the truth of life and death, thereby creating a passage of self-realisation eternally supporting the bereaved.
  • Ulterior honour - Ekoddista-Sraddha: This is the stage where the body is purified as a preparation for the pyre; as an offering to the lord of fire.
  •  Pancha-Pindadanam: Sacrificial offerings to several deities take place at various stages before and after the cremation of the body. A surreal monument that stretches and bends, to support and shelter the memories, creates a form that respectfully bows.
  • Furthest farewell - Stalasuddhi: A stage where purification of the cremation ground and laying pyre is conducted. Final rites - Dahana-Samskaram: An instant of strengthening felt by the living in finality as the spirit of the dead leaves the house; from whence a form monumentally stands reaching out symbolically, is the farthest reaching farewell.

The brief
“Keeping in mind the idea of Honour, embrace and farewell, the buildings and places have a deep connection to the way a human feels in that kind of a condition,” says architect IS Pradeepthi of DA Studios. “In modern architecture, we try to establish and clearly see the functions of the space. For a crematorium, you have to understand the different needs of this space, all the provisions it should have. So, without any disturbance or hindrance, we made a list of 10-12 functions and each function was given a space to cater to.”

Further, all the graves were left untouched. For this, “we had to turn the path or tilt the building in another direction so that they don’t hinder the location of the graves and the construction cranes could reach the spot,” she adds.

A sustainable initiative
The Mahaprasthanam crematorium adheres to the ‘Go Green, Go Clean’ imperative of being environment-friendly in every way. The whole crematorium has been planted with trees and greenery, rendering a lush park-like feel. The crematorium complex itself comprises three traditional pyres and one state-of-the-art electrical pyre, offering a pollution-free solution. “There is one pyre that still exists, which belongs to the earlier crematorium,” says Pradeepthi. “This has been given a facelift.”

High-quality prefabricated materials that are environment-friendly and fully recyclable have been used for construction. In addition, Badiga shares, “The crematorium has over 50 LED lights, which completely run on solar power installed on site. This simple change has brought about a power saving of over 40 per cent on site.” Water saving is also a priority here. “For water pumping, there is one bore well on the side to take care of needs on site, including watering the plants and drip irrigation system,” explains Pradeepthi. “There are three rainwater harvesting pits. Water is drawn from these pits to maintain the crematorium and usage is kept at an efficient bare minimum. As the whole site is supported by lush greenery and the funeral pyres require continuous cleaning, having a rainwater harvesting system is extremely useful.”

Also, the project has made use of precast technology. “Precast consumes less energy, is an efficient system to build, and does not take much time to install,” explains Pradeepthi. “So the walls were built, brought here and installed according to the design.”

Modern amenities
In addition to the religious aspect and ecological balance, the revamp was driven by the need to provide utmost comfort to the families of the deceased in their time of grief. “Therefore, at Mahaprasthanam, while ensuring that the cremation is done in the most hygienic way, we have worked to create a soothing and helpful ambience,” says Badiga.

This includes landscaped gardens with ample walking area; waiting halls attached to the pyres; storage lockers for the ashes; a ceremonial yard, which is a dedicated area for offering pindam; parking facility for around 75 cars; a cold-room facility to keep bodies before cremation; washrooms and changing rooms for men and women with water heaters; piped spiritual music; adequate security with guards and CCTV cameras; RO drinking water for visitors and a full-fledged canteen facility; a bookstore with spiritual books; vehicle transportation (mortuary van and hearse facility); a dedicated in-house pujari to perform the ceremonies and rituals; and a dedicated store for ritual requirements. What’s more, technology has been used to enhance the spiritual experience for loved ones. “The latest audiovisual equipment and Wi-Fi along the entire site enables live recording and uploading of the ceremony for loved ones from any part of the world,” says Badiga.

Befittingly, a sense of calm and peace is all-pervasive at Mahaprasthanam. “Lush greenness is everywhere, giving the pyres privacy,” concludes Badiga. “Thereon, the rolling landscape of the Deccan takes over the terrain, giving it a sense of serenity.”

The Government of Telangana has announced a plan to build 4,000 such crematoriums in the state; fittingly, Phoenix Foundation is the knowledge partner for this initiative. Apart from these, there are close to 40 crematoria that need an urgent face lift. The firm is now getting requests from several state governments to help implement this mission of modernising crematoria in their respective states.


Project details
Cost: Rs 3 crore
Contractor/developer: Phoenix Foundation
Architect/planner: DA Studios, Hyderabad
Precast technology: Preca

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