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On Hindu Family Record Books and its Keepers at Haridwar

There are hundreds of priests in Haridwar who keep record books filled with the genealogies of Hindu families visiting the ancient city to pay homage to their dead. A particular Priest or Panda keeps the record of a set of families and relatives leave there remarks on the dead person in the book. In an article in the Washington Post, Emily Wax writes

"It's so lovely that we still feel so emotionally connected to seeing the books," Parthi Krishnan, a hotel manager marveling at the record book's faded pages. There were remarks written by relatives through the years: "A good listener," one entry said. "Hard worker," another said.

"You see, a computer has no feeling," Pawan, a Hindu priest, explained. "There is an intimacy in seeing the handwritten notes of a family."

Millions of Hindu families in northern India come to priests such as Pawan to record their family trees, a tradition that has survived Mughal conquests, British colonialism and even the Internet.

Standing in a doorway nearby, Davinder Kumar, 18, is wrapped in a blanket. His head is shaved, a sign of mourning. His family of day laborers saved for nearly 15 years to send 40 of its members by train to Haridwar, thousands of miles from their village. This day, they entered their father's name in the book and spread his ashes.

"We are happy to enter the lives of our ancestors in our family book," Kumar says, his eyes moist. "To pay homage to the departed soul is a wonderful tradition."