He doused his daughter's feet and lips in holy water three times. He knelt down and kissed the orange shroud she was wrapped in.

And then helped by grieving relatives, he spread red ochre and marigolds over the corpse, encased it in a tomb of dry wood and set it ablaze.

The ancient Hindu cremation rite is meant to purify souls for the afterlife, and this was far from the only one for Pradhan and his extended family.

When the quake crumpled his brother's four-story house into a cloud of dust Saturday, it left them with a total of 18 souls to prepare.

"I don't know why this happened. But I don't blame anyone. I don't blame the government, I don't blame the gods," he said, struggling to fight back tears.

Pradhan's 21-year-old daughter was one of nearly 5,000 people who perished in the worst tremor this country has seen in more than 80 years.

Even in a nation where death and destruction have touched a vast area stretching from the icy peaks of Mount Everest to remote villages that rescue workers have yet to reach, the grief visited upon Pradhan's family is overwhelming.

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