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Posted by on Mar 24, 2009 in Religion | 5 comments

Hindus In Britain Demand Traditional Cremation

Hindu cremation

Followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism may have lots of differences, but when it comes to the disposal of the dead body, they share a common, and a strong, belief that it must be buried. On the other hand, Hindus, and followers of other Eastern religions, opt for cremation of their dead.

Down the centuries India has remained highly tolerant towards diverse religious practices on its soil, allowing people to bury their dead or even follow other different religious practices. But it is not so in the Western countries. A recent news report from Britain states that the High Court will consider a legal challenge from a 70-year-old Hindu that would allow him to have an open-air cremation when he dies.

According to The Times of London: “The judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice will hear a case brought by Davender Kumar Ghai, founder of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society, who wants the law changed to allow traditional Hindu funeral pyres in Britain.

“Newcastle City Council has refused him a permit to be cremated in line with Hindu ritual, arguing that a pyre outside a crematorium is prohibited by the 1902 Cremation Act.

“Although there have been Hindu cremations in the the past in Britain, in recent years the authorities have become stricter about enforcing the rules. There are more than 600,000 Hindus in Britain and many families pay thousands of pounds to fly the bodies of their loved ones to India for a traditional cremation.” More here…

According to Hindu traditions, the reasons for preferring to destroy the corpse by fire over burying it into ground is to induce a feeling of detachment into the freshly disembodied spirit, which will be helpful to encourage it into passing to “the other world” (the ultimate destination of the dead), states the Wikepedia.

Other religions that permit cremation are Ásatrú, Buddhism, Christianity (containing Church of Ireland, Church in Wales, United Church of Canada, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutheranism, Methodism, Moravian Church, Salvation Army, Scottish Episcopal Church), Christian Science, Hinduism (mandatory except for sanyasis, eunuchs and children under five), Jainism, Shinto, Sikhs, Society of Friends (Quakers), and Unitarian Universalism.

“Cremation remained common, but not universal, in both Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. According to Cicero, in Rome, inhumation was considered the more archaic rite, while the most honoured citizens were most typically cremated—especially upper classes and members of imperial families.

“Christianity frowned upon cremation, both influenced by the tenets of Judaism, and in an attempt to abolish Graeco-Roman pagan rituals. By the 5th century, the practice of cremation had practically disappeared from Europe.”

In modern times there are environmental reasons that favour cremation of the body. More here…

One of the best scholarly books that I have read on why Hindus cremate their dead is Death In Banaras written by Jonathan P. Parry of the London School of Economics. See here…