Mumbai: After a four-year toil, Mata Ramabai Ambedkar Smashan Bhumi – Mumbai's most modern and aesthetically designed crematorium – is finally ready to be handed over to the BMC. Located on Dr E Moses Road in Worli and built at a cost of Rs 40 crore, the facility is a visual relief compared to the shabby and rubbish-strewn municipal crematoriums in the city. Soot-blackened pyre sheds and dilapidated waiting areas add more macabre.
In 2019, Antim Sanskar Seva organisation, part of the Parekh Parivar Charity Trust, had signed a memorandum of understanding with the BMC to redevelop the Worli crematorium. Funded by philanthropists like the JSW Foundation, Tata Group, the Mahindra group and the H T Parekh Foundation, the funeral home now features gas and traditional wood furnaces, sun-lit atriums, and waiting and landscaped areas. Like other civic-run crematoriums, the new facility will be free or subsidised.
Dr Ramnik Parekh of the Hiralal Parekh Parivar Charity Trust said that the crematorium's architecture is influenced by the idea that the kin of the deceased should get privacy. Till now, the concept of privacy has evaded the public crematoriums, remarked Parekh. Each furnace is surrounded by a secluded waiting area for mourners while stone-covered platforms for last rites have been built in front of each furnace. In addition, there are two vacant spaces that can accommodate furnaces in the future.
The project's structural blueprint was designed by Mumbai-based RMA Architects. Staying close to its vision of a sanctuary for mourners, the new crematorium has received accolades from its benefactors. A testimonial from Anand Mahindra, Executive Chairman of Mahindra and Mahindra which is one of the biggest benefactors of the project, said, “This (the facility) will provide bereaved families with a calm and serene ambience as they bid a respectful farewell to their loved one.”
The crematorium has three gas-powered furnaces, two spaces for traditional wood pyres and one advanced version of the wood furnace that saves logs. “While a traditional wood pyre uses 400 kg of wood, the closed-wood furnace uses just 100 kg,” highlighted Parekh.
Rahul Mehrotra of RMA Architects said the crematorium was the first such project designed by the firm. "But it's unfortunate the entire original concept could not be realized and 30% of the complex was cut off at the last minute."
On the features, Mehrotra said, "Yes, we have tried to play with light and keep the atmosphere different and somber. Also, I have tried to bring green in for reflection in the various courtyards. The red drums are symbolic of the matka which is a key element traditionally in the cremation process."
"The other point to add is that we attempted to create an introverted space so the craziness of the city is blocked out," Mehrotra added.