A pyre (Ancient Greek: πυρά; pyrá, from πῦρ, pyr, "fire"),[1][2] also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite or execution. As a form of cremation, a body is placed upon or under the pyre, which is then set on fire.

In discussing ancient Greek religion, "pyre" (the normal Greek word for fire anglicized) is also used for the sacred fires at altars, on which parts of the animal sacrifice were burnt as an offering to the deity.

Ubud Cremation 1
An Ubud cremation ceremony in 2005


Pyres are crafted using wood.[3] The composition of a pyre may be determined through use of charcoal analysis. Charcoal analysis helps to predict composition of the fuel and local forestry of the charcoal being studied.[4]


Specifically in the Bronze Age, pyre materials were gathered based on local abundance and ease of access to the wood although materials were also selected due to the specific properties, potential traditional purpose, or due to economical reasons. In Templenoe, pyres typically consisted of oak and fruit wood compositions.[4]


From analyzing three necropolises, in Kokotów, Pawłowice and Korytnica, it seems that Polish pyres consisted of primarily Scots pine, birch, and oak trees, as pines, birch, and oak were dense in local woodlands. All parts of the tree were used including the trunk, branches, twigs, and even pine cones.[5]

During WWII, pyres were used in German death camps on Polish territory, such as Treblinka.[6]

Pyre remains in Britain

Worked antler and bone objects, along with flint and flake tools, and copper-alloys are most commonly found in pyre cremation remains. The copper-alloys leave a blue-green stain and are typically fused to the ribs, arms, and other areas where jewelry is commonly worn.[7]

Analysis of bone fragment size

A study was done on the bone fragments of cremations to show that not only will movement of the bone fragments cause breakage but also environmental factors play a part. After studying cremation remains in urns that had been tightly sealed and had no evidence of environmental disturbance it was found that on average bigger bone fragment sizes were observed meaning less bone breakage had occurred. It was concluded that if cremated bone is placed in an urn before burial the original bone fragment size will be preserved. This study was intended to explain that more cautionary measures should be taken during and after any cremation occurs and to educate those who are studying cremated bone that the size of the fragments will be smaller than there were right after cremation.[8]


Chan Kusalo cremation 04
The funeral pyre of Chan Kusalo (the Buddhist high monk of Northern Thailand) at Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Traditionally, pyres are used for the cremation of the dead in the Hindu and Sikh religions, a practice which dates back several thousands of years.[3] Funeral pyres were also used in Viking and Roman culture.[9]


Pyres and bonfires are used in celebrations and remembrance in services. Examples of these are Guy Fawkes Night in the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth countries, where the 'Guy', either seen as an effigy of Guy Fawkes or the Pope, is burned.

Funeral pyres were used by the Nazis to cremate the bodies of 1,500,000+ prisoners in Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps, as opposed to the crematoria used in other camps. Pyres have also been used to dispose of large quantities of livestock in agriculture, particularly those infected with disease.[9]

Pyres are lit around the clock in Varanasi, India as it is considered one of the oldest standing cities. Hindu's believe that by resting the ashes of the dead in the Ganges river in at Varanasi, the dead will achieve Moksha. Hindus will travel great lengths in order to perform ritualistic duties such as praying, attending to their dead, or to die.[10]

Sati practice in India

In the early 19th century, some Hindu groups practiced Sati (also known as suttee). Sati is the act of immolation of the widow to honor devotion to the recently deceased husband. This involves being burned alive on the pyre or even being buried alive.[11]

Environmental impacts of pyres

Environmental impact in Southern Asia

Buddhist monks procession in front of a pyre
Buddhist monks procession in front of a pyre in Laos

Chakrabarty RK, et al. examined the environmental effects of Southern Asia’s funeral pyres in their study, “Funeral pyres in South Asia: Brown carbon aerosol emissions and climate impacts. Environmental Science & Technology Letters.” The heating of the atmosphere from carbonaceous aerosols resulting from human activities is a significant contributor to climate change in South Asia. In this region, fossil fuel use and residential biofuels have been documented to be the primary emitter of light-absorbing black carbon aerosols. The study determined the emitted organic carbon contributed 40% to smoke absorption of visible solar radiation, about 92 Gg annually.[12]

A second study examined the carbonaceous fractions associated with indoor PM2.5/PM10 during Asian cultural and ritual burning practices. (Dewangan, et al.) This study concluded drastically higher levels of biomass burning markers within burial rituals performed indoors compared to levels collected for residential indoors and ambient outdoors, with levels reaching three-eightfold higher levels of carbonaceous aerosols. These high chemical levels were also found to correlate to higher aerosol fraction levels during winter months in both Muslim Holy Shrines and marriage places. The study concluded PM concentrations were significantly higher in indoor-ritual locations and suggested further studies and actions be taken to investigate risk and health assessment and calls for regulatory agencies to propose new guidelines for indoor cultural/ritual locations.[13]

Environmental impacts in India

A traditional Hindu funeral pyre takes six hours and burns 500–600 kilogrammes (1,102–1,323 pounds) of wood to burn a body completely.[14] Every year fifty to sixty million trees are burned during cremations in India, which results in about eight million tonnes of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions.[14] Air pollution, deforestation and large quantities of ash, which are later thrown into rivers, adding to the toxicity of their waters, pose great environmental problems.[15]

Green Revolution Foundation under the parent organisation of Sarthak Charitable Trust, a Delhi-based [NGO] working to reduce the environmental impact of funeral pyres, claims to have created an alternative of wood that reduces cutting of trees. It helps in saving environment. Also it promotes Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. As a result, the cost is reduced significantly and emissions are cut by up to 60%.[16]

Legality of open-air pyres

In ancient times burning bodies was a practiced form of burial. Even today people tend to bury the dead or cremate them.[9] Open-air cremations, known as funeral pyres, are uncommon and even illegal in some countries, particularly in the Western World,[9] because it is considered taboo.[17] While cremation is commonplace, open air cremations in the United Kingdom were considered to be unlawful under the Cremation Act 1902.[9] The law was created to prevent the creation of a private cremation industry and because of issues concerning property. But at the time environmental concerns did not play any factor in the creation of the law.[9]

On February 2010, A Hindu man named Davender Ghai was granted permission to be cremated on a traditional open-air pyre, when a court of appeals in the United Kingdom ruled them legal inside of a building with an open roof and away from roads or homes.[18] In the U.S., a group in Crestone, Colorado, a part of the Crestone End of Life Project, obtained legal permission to perform "open-air cremations".[17] Others have attempted to open up more outdoor funeral pyres but have faced disapproval.[19] Crestone, Colorado is the only place where open-air cremations are legal in the United States.[19] They can perform around 12 a year, regardless of religion and families can be involved in the process if they would like. At this time, the group only allows people who are part of the local community to choose this alternative burial.[20]

Roman pyres

In the time leading up to second century C.E., popular funeral practices in Rome consisted of cremation with a pyre. Ideal funeral practices meant burning an ornamental pyre for the deceased, that would burn with enough heat and a long enough time to only leave ashes and small bone fragments. Having to use another's pyre was a sign of poverty or emergency cases.[21]

The process of constructing and properly burning a funeral pyre is a skilled task. Often, pyres would not burn with enough heat to properly cremate human remains. Pyres had to be maintained by stoking the flame and raking the pyre to allow good oxygen flow. Ancient literature refers to the skilled job of an ustor, meaning a professional pyre builder derived from the Latin word uro which means, to burn.[21] However, regardless of professional build, pyres were unpredictable and would go wrong on a regular basis. The Elder Pliny writes of extreme cases in which bodies have been thrown from the pyre from the force of the flames. Other cases, described by Plutarch, involving deceased victims of poisoning, resulted in the human body bursting open and dousing the pyre.[22]

Forensic evaluation of pyres

A study conducted by Alunni, et al. examined the forensic science behind cremations on wooden pyres. The study concluded the average pyre does not completely destroy a human body effectively, and differences in suicide via pyres are evident in the remains. A pyre suicide shows signs of remains being more charred rather than completely oxidized by high temperatures, are in anatomically correct positions, poor bone fragmentation, and is without suspicious burn patterns compared to an individual murdered via pyre.[23] Cremated remains are different from traditional human remains in the sense that their physical appearance including bone vary in color, fragmentation, and differ from their original shape and dimension. This is why forensic experimental studies are necessary to fully understand the differences the body undergoes in a pyre. Coloring of bones before cremation is dependent on oxygen exposure, duration, and temperature. The bone color can range from black to brown or an oxidized white color. The type of bone and method of cooling may also alter the bone form. Cooling is also an important consideration, as if the remains are cooled via water increases warping. This knowledge is a consideration for archaeologists to understand the remains from pyres.[24]

See also


  1. ^ πυρά, πῦρ. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "pyre". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. ^ a b Norfolk, Andrew (13 July 2006). "'Illegal' funeral pyre burnt in secret". The Times. London. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  4. ^ a b O'Donnell, Lorna (2016). "The power of the pyre - A holistic study of cremation focusing on charcoal remains". Journal of Archaeological Science. 65: 161–171. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2015.11.009.
  5. ^ Moskal-del Hoyo, Magdalena (2012). "The use of wood in funerary pyres: random gathering or special selection of species? Case study of three necropolises from Poland". Journal of Archaeological Science. 39.11 (11): 3386–3395. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2012.05.011.
  6. ^ "Treblinka Extermination Camp (Poland)". Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  7. ^ Mckinley, Jacqueline (1994). "A pyre and grave goods in British cremation burials; have we missed something?". Antiquity. 68.258 (258): 132–134. doi:10.1017/S0003598X00046275.
  8. ^ Mckinley, Jacqueline I. (1994). "Bone Fragment Size in British Cremation Burials and its Implications for Pyre Technology and Ritual". Journal of Archaeological Science. 21 (3): 339–342. doi:10.1006/jasc.1994.1033.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Fernando, Shehani (14 July 2006). "The question: Why are funeral pyres illegal?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  10. ^ McBride, Pete (7 August 2014). "The Pyres of Varanasi: Breaking the Cycle of Death and Rebirth". Proof. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  11. ^ John Stratton Hawley (8 September 1994). Sati, the Blessing and the Curse: The Burning of Wives in India. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-536022-6.
  12. ^ Chakrabarty, Rajan K.; Pervez, Shamsh; Chow, Judith C.; Watson, John G.; Dewangan, Shippi; Robles, Jerome; Tian, Guoxun (14 January 2014). "Funeral Pyres in South Asia: Brown Carbon Aerosol Emissions and Climate Impacts". Environmental Science & Technology Letters. 1 (1): 44–48. doi:10.1021/ez4000669.
  13. ^ Dewangan, Shippi; Pervez, Shamsh; Chakrabarty, Rajan; Watson, John G.; Chow, Judith C.; Pervez, Yasmeen; Tiwari, Suresh; Rai, Joyce (1 September 2016). "Study of carbonaceous fractions associated with indoor PM2.5/PM10 during Asian cultural and ritual burning practices". Building and Environment. 106: 229–236. doi:10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.06.006.
  14. ^ a b Kermeliotis, Teo (17 September 2011). "India's burning issue with emissions from Hindu funeral pyres". CNN. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  15. ^ Nirmala George (17 November 2015). "India court orders action on crematorium near Taj Mahal". Retrieved 19 November 2015.
  16. ^ Sharma, Anita (20 May 2017). "Sarthak charitable trust.. Vasudha woodless cremation" (Video). YouTube (in Hindi). Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  17. ^ a b Moreno, Ivan (31 January 2011). "Funeral Pyres An Option In Crestone". CBS Denver. Denver. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  18. ^ Taylor, Matthew (10 February 2010). "Hindu man wins court battle for open-air cremation pyre". The Guardian. London.
  19. ^ a b Marsden, Sara J. "Alternative Funerals - What are your options today?". US Funerals Online. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  20. ^ "Cremation by funeral pyre, now available in the USA". Thefuneralsite's Weblog. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  21. ^ a b Noy, David (2000). "'Half-burnt on an Emergency Pyre ': Roman Cremations which Went Wrong". Greece and Rome (Second Series). 47 (2): 186–196. doi:10.1093/gr/47.2.186.
  22. ^ "Plutarch, Tiberius Gracchus".. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  23. ^ Alunni, Veronique; Grevin, Gilles; Buchet, Luc; Quatrehomme, Gérald (1 August 2014). "Forensic aspect of cremations on wooden pyre". Forensic Science International. 241: 167–172. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.05.023.
  24. ^ "Using Experiments and Forensics to Understand Cremated Remains". Bones Don't Lie. 1 November 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2017.

Ahilāvati (also known as Mauravi, her maiden name) was a female figure in the Mahābhārata epic. She was a Nāga Kanyā (meaning snake-girl) and was married to Ghatotkacha. Her father was Bashak (the snake staying around the neck of Lord Shiva). She had been cursed by Goddess Parvati for offering stale flowers to Lord Shiva, the curse was that she would get a mortified man as her husband.It is said that Bhima was poisoned by Shakuni and Duryodhana and thrown in a river,after which he wafted and reached Ahilyavati's kingdom. Owing to the curse, Ahilyavati soon recognised him as Vaayu's son and asked her father to provide jeevan-daan (life) to him, failing which she would burn herself alive in Bhima's pyre. After Bashakji gave the elixir given as boon to him by Shivji, he came back to life.As an aftermath and after a series of incidents, Ghatotkacha finally married Ahilawati and they had a son named Barbarika or the present-day Khatushyamji, who is also known as 'Sheesh ka daani' or 'Haare ka sahara'.


Antyesti (IAST: Antyeṣṭi, Sanskrit: अन्त्येष्टि) literally means "last sacrifice", and refers to the funeral rites for the dead in Hinduism. This rite of passage is one of traditional Saṃskāras in the life of a Hindu. It is also referred to as Antima Sanskar, Antya-kriya, Anvarohanyya, or as Vahni Sanskara.The details of the Antyesti ceremony depends on the region, caste, gender and age of the dead.

Archi (Hindu goddess)

Archi (Sanskrit: अर्ची, Arcī, lit. "adored") was an ideal queen and an avatar of Lakshmi in Hindu mythology. According to Bhagavata Purana, Archi is emerged from Vena's body, along with her husband, maharaja Prithu (avatar, incarnation of the preserver god-Vishnu) and considered as an avatar of the wealth goddess Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu.

As consort, she followed her husband into the forest for Sannyasa. Finally, she went Sati on his funeral pyre:

the Queen executed the necessary funerary functions and offered oblations of water. After bathing in the river, she offered obeisances to various demigods situated in the sky in the different planetary systems. She then circumambulated the fire and, while thinking of the lotus feet of her husband, entered its flames.


Croesus ( KREE-səs; Ancient Greek: Κροῖσος, Kroisos; 595 BC – c. 546 BC) was the king of Lydia who, according to Herodotus, reigned for 14 years: from 560 BC until his defeat by the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 546 BC (sometimes given as 547 BC).

Croesus was renowned for his wealth; Herodotus and Pausanias noted that his gifts were preserved at Delphi. The fall of Croesus had a profound impact on the Greeks, providing a fixed point in their calendar. "By the fifth century at least," J. A. S. Evans has remarked, "Croesus had become a figure of myth, who stood outside the conventional restraints of chronology."


Eloy is a German progressive rock band, whose musical style includes symphonic and space rock, the latter tendency being more prevalent on earlier albums. Despite their nationality and time period, the band is not generally considered krautrock because of their sound, which has much more in common with English progressive rock and symphonic rock groups such as Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Yes, and Camel.

Eternal Pyre

Eternal Pyre is an EP by the thrash metal band Slayer. Released June 6, 2006 (06/06/06) through American Recordings, the EP was limited to a pressing of 1,000 (but later 5,000) copies. The album is a pre-release to the later album Christ Illusion, which, like the EP, features the song "Cult". The album was released exclusively through Hot Topic chain stores in the United States and copies were also available in Germany, Finland and Sweden on June 23, 2006. There are three tracks featured on the album, one of which is an audio track and the others are videos. The album was not well received by critics, with few critics actually reviewing the album. The album charted on four different charts, peaking number two in Finland and three in Denmark.

Funeral Pyre

"Funeral Pyre" is The Jam's thirteenth single released on 29 May 1981. Backed by the B-side "Disguises", a cover of a Who track, it reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart.Funeral Pyre is the only single co-written by the band, and only the second song which has writing credits for all three members, the other being "Music for the Last Couple" which features on the Sound Affects album.

The song begins as a studio jam between drummer Rick Buckler and bassist Bruce Foxton, with Paul Weller's contribution coming later.

The song does not appear on any of the band's studio albums. In the US, it appeared on the five-track EP The Jam (Polydor PX-1-503), which peaked at No. 176 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Holika Dahan

Holika Dahan also Kamudu pyre is celebrated by burning Holika, an asura. For many traditions in Hinduism, Holi celebrates the killing of Holika by Vishnu in order to save Prahlad, a devotee of God Vishnu in the city of Multan Pakistan, and thus Holi gets its name. In olden days, people use to contribute a piece of wood or two for the Holika bonfire, and this represents Holika being consumed by the fire in which she tried to kill her nephew Prahalad.

Jettha Tissa I of Anuradhapura

Jettha Tissa I (267 – 277) was the eldest son of Gothabhaya and brother of Mahasena. The live chronicle of Sri Lanka - Mahavamsa describes Jettha Tissa I as a cruel person and states that he, immediately after his father’s death, had all of his father’s court ministers killed and spiked their bodies around the pyre.


In Norse mythology Litr (often anglicized as Lit, confer Icelandic litur), which means "colour", is a name borne by a dwarf and a giant.


In the Mahabharata epic, Madri (Sanskrit: माद्री; IAST: Mādrī; IPA/Sanskrit: [maːdɽiː] ) was a princess of the Madra Kingdom who married Pandu.(IAST: Mādra; [maːdɽɐ])

. She accompanied her husband Pandu and Kunti to the forest after Pandu was cursed by a Rishi Kindama.

Madri learns the mantra given to Kunti by Sage Durvasa and begots twins by invoking Ashvins. The twins were called Nakula and Sahadeva.

Pandu was cursed that, if he touches a woman he'll be dead. It is said that Madri tried to get intimate with Pandu eventually leading to his death. Out of guilty, she jumps in the funeral pyre of Pandu and dies, leaving her twin children in the custody of Kunti.


Putalabai Bhosale was the third queen of Shivaji Maharaj. She was married to Shivaji Maharaj in the year 1653 and was from Palkar Family. Putalabai was the youngest of the surviving wives of Raja Shivaji. Being childless she went sati in funeral pyre of Shivaji Maharaj.

Pyre (video game)

Pyre is an action role-playing sports video game developed by Supergiant Games for Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS and PlayStation 4, released on July 25, 2017. The macOS version was released on August 3, 2017.

Sati (practice)

Sati or suttee is was historical Hindu funeral practice in India in which a widow sacrificed herself by sitting atop her deceased husband's funeral pyre. An ancient form of the practice is called Anumarana.

The extent to which sati was practised in history is not known with clarity; however, during the early modern Mughal period, it was notably associated with elite Hindu Rajput clans in western India, marking one of the points of divergence between Rajput culture and Islamic Mughal culture, which allowed widow remarriage.In the early 19th century, the British East India Company, in the process of extending its rule to most of India, initially tolerated the practice; William Carey, a Christian evangelist, noted 438 incidences within a 30-mile (48-km) radius of the capital Calcutta, in 1803, despite its ban within Calcutta. Between 1815 and 1818, the number of incidents of sati in Bengal doubled from 378 to 839. Opposition to the practice of sati by Christian evangelists, such as Carey, and Hindu reformers such as Ram Mohan Roy, ultimately led the Governor-General of India Lord William Bentinck to enact the Bengal Sati Regulation, 1829, declaring the practise of burning or burying alive of Hindu widows to be punishable by the criminal courts.Isolated incidents of sati were recorded in India in the late 20th century, leading the Indian government to promulgate the Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, criminalising the aiding or glorifying of sati.

Seguam Island

Seguam Island (Aleut: Saĝuugamax) is a small volcanic island in the Andreanof Islands group in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The island is mountainous and oval shaped with a land area of 80.04 square miles (207.3 km2). It is 16 miles (26 km) long and 6.8 miles (10.9 km) wide. The 2000 census reported a population of one person.

The island consists of several overlapping stratovolcanoes, and it contains two calderas each with central volcanic cones. About 10 historical eruptions have been recorded since the late 18th century, the most recent in 1993. All recent activity has occurred at Pyre Peak, the cone within the western caldera and the highest point on the island, and has produced explosive eruptions and basaltic lava flows.

Star Wars Resistance

Star Wars Resistance is an American 3D CGI animated television series produced by Lucasfilm Animation. The series is inspired by Japanese anime and utilizes a cel-shaded look. It follows Kazuda Xiono, a New Republic pilot who is recruited by the Resistance to spy on the growing threat of the First Order. The series begins six months before The Force Awakens and crosses over with it at the end of its first season.The series premiered on Disney Channel on October 7, 2018, and later debuted on Disney XD in the United States and worldwide. Twelve shorts debuted on the Disney Channel YouTube channel in December 2018.

Supergiant Games

Supergiant Games, LLC is an American video game developer based in San Francisco. It was founded in 2009 by Amir Rao and Gavin Simon, and is known for the critically acclaimed games Bastion, Transistor and Pyre.

The Funeral Pyre

The Funeral Pyre is an American blackened death metal band from La Habra, California, United States. The band has released four studio albums, two EPs, and two split 7" albums, and consists of guitarists James Joyce and Justin Garcia, vocalist John Strachan, drummer Alex Hernandez, and bassist Adam Campbell.

Venom (comic book)

Venom is the title of several American comic book series published by Marvel Comics focusing on the various heroic and villainous incarnations of the character Venom, which have usually consisted of a human host and amorphous alien being called a symbiote. The first incarnation of the character was the one created by the third and current human host to the symbiote (the first two being Spider-Man and Tel-Kar), Eddie Brock, and—since 2011—its fifth host, Flash Thompson. Beginning with Venom: Lethal Protector, eighteen limited series following Brock's adventures were published monthly between February 1993 and January 1998. A monthly Venom series began publication in 2003, following a new character, Patricia Robertson, and a clone of the original symbiote. The series concluded in 2004 after 18 issues. In 2011 another monthly series, following the adventures of Flash Thompson, was launched. The series concluded in October 2013 with its forty-second issue.

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