Hindus in India cremate the bodies of their dear ones on a funeral pyre using wood. This simply means that every year thousands of trees are axed for this purpose. Vijay Limaye, the 52-year-old insurance surveyor from Nagpur, started thinking about an alternative to wood after the death of his father in 2010.

Limaye started visiting crematoriums during his work visit to different states in order to explore various options. It was then when he came to know that in some part of central and western India, a pyre is also made of cow dung cakes. After convincing the Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) to run a pilot project at a crematorium, Limaye with the help of his NGO team started spreading awareness. Interestingly, he successfully persuaded people to go for cow dung cakes in funeral pyre despite free wood being supplied by the NMC.

However, the initiative hit a roadblock when suppliers demanded whopping prices per dung cakes. Meanwhile, Limaye also realised that cow dung cakes won’t meet the demand in the long run. Hence, a more affordable and sustainable solution needs to established. And, then he found the answer in burnt crop residue.

“My logic was simple. Crop residue is burnt anyway. So, if we use this for cremation, thousands of trees would be saved,” he told VICE.

After a couple of trial and error, he found briquette made of either soybean, arhar dal or cotton crop residue to be the right kind of combination.

Limaye named it mokshakashtha. During the pilot project for three years, the NMC even offered 100 percent subsidy on using briquettes. “During the last three years, as many as 18,000 bodies were cremated using mokshakashtha,” mentions VICE in its report.