This scene is inspired by the Hindu cremation grounds on the Bagmati riverbanks in front of the Pashupatinath temple. This area near Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is sacred. Slightly altered for compositorial reasons, the architecture of this space resembles the ceremony; firstly the deceased's feet are washed in the river on a platform that slopes down until right above the water (this is just of the painting), secondly the deceased is laid down on the platform on the right in the painting to receive flowers from friends and family. Lastly the deceased is taken to the platform on the left and laid down upon a funeral pyre of either wood or straw or a combination of these, depending on the family's wealth. The eldest son performs the last rites, such as applying ghee at seven important places on the body. Wooden logs are placed over the body and ghee is sprinkled all over. The eldest son goes round the body seven times with a jar of water which is broken near the feet of the deceased at the conclusion. Then, while the priest chants the mantra, the eldest son ignites the body where the heart rests in it's chest. Now and then family or friends of the deceased poke a bamboo stick in the pyre in order to let the body incinerate better. After the cremation, the ashes are scattered into the holy Bagmati river.
Traditionally, women were not allowed to be present at the burial grounds, because Hindus believe that crying at the cremation might disturb the spirit's passing from the physical to the spiritual world. However, times have changed. On the third or fifth day after cremation, the relatives visit the cremation grounds and pour out milk on the riverbank, to pacify the dead soul.
All these rites of passage take place amidst the naturally continuing daily life. Children are running up the stairs at the same time as the bodies are burning on the pyre. Other people do their laundry just down the river. The ambience is not the same as at western funerals, which are in general more sad, because Hindus believe that emotions towards the dead can bind his soul to this world, hindering the dissolving of the ego or the rebirth into a new life.