India: Cemetery sunrise on Easter

Shalen, 8, places a candle at his grandmother's grave on Easter morning in central India.

Sakshi, 8, sprinkles flower petals on her brother’s grave on Easter morning in central India.

Candles and flower petals cover a grave on Easter morning in central India.

Four-thirty on Easter Sunday morning, the cool pre-dawn air in the cemetery is infused with the sweet smells of incense and candle smoke. The cacophony of morning traffic and the dry heat of 100+ afternoons is still hours away. Stillness reigns.

Family by family, little groups of people filter into the Christian cemetery in central India to honor and remember their deceased loved ones by decorating the simple graves with flowers, candles and white chalk dust. It is their custom to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. They believe they too will one day be resurrected to be with Jesus as well as with their family and friends.

Most are silent as they light the candles or incense, cover the mounds with quilts of flower petals, or wrap the headstones with garlands of yellow and orange flowers. A few kneel and pray.

The graves, now resplendent with their new coverings, are left to shimmer alone as the several hundred early-risers leave the graves and gather in a clearing to sing and listen to scripture readings. The gathering ends just as the sun begins to light the eastern sky.

All Photographs copyright Gary S. Chapman

(Nikon D800, 50mm f1.4, 1/60 sec, f2, ISO 2000)

(Nikon D4, 24mm f1.4, 1/80 sec, f1.8, ISO 3200)

(Nikon D4, 50mm f1.4, 1/200 sec, f1.8, ISO 3200)


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