Visakhapatnam: Now, elaborate funeral rituals take a backseat
- Death rituals in Hindu tradition hold a larger significance
- Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, rituals after death take a beating
- Elaborate rituals have been cut short and often violate traditional norms
Visakhapatnam: In Hindu tradition, death rituals hold a larger significance. But with the outbreak of the coronavirus, tradition followed for generations has been discontinued. With relationships falling apart and families getting shattered, death rituals too took a beating due to the pandemic.
For the Brahmin and other communities, the funeral rituals often turn out to be an elaborate exercise. It includes, giving a bath to the body and chanting mantras, etc., before the body finally reaches the pyre.
According to the Hindu tradition, last rites will not be performed to a body after the sunset. If someone passes away after the sunset, the body will be kept till the sunrise and devotional songs will be played all through the night. But now, the last rites are being performed at any point of time, more so in the night. For a few relatives who turn up at the cemetery, it is a long wait.
Not many prefer to come to the hospital and claim the body, especially when the patient passes away due to Covid-19. Despite having children, siblings and relatives, when a Covid patient dies, arrangements for the funeral rites are often made over the phone.
"When I went to Gnanapuram cemetery to perform the last rites to my brother, there were 70 bodies waiting in the queue. My turn was the 72nd one. The staff there said it would become late in the night by the time my number arrives. Since it is not our tradition to cremate the body in the night, I made my own arrangements engaging a priest and performed the rituals in the noon as there was no other option left for me," says M Ramesh from Gajuwaka.
Last rites for some of those, who succumbed to Covid-19, were being performed by the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation as despite the body kept in the mortuary for days, none of the family members is coming forward to claim it. Cremation for such bodies is often done as orphans.
"According to Hindu practice, from the day the person expires till the completion of 'Pedda karma', family members are supposed to sleep on the floor and their meals should be without any spices. They are not supposed to leave the outskirts of their village/town. Based on the community the family belongs to, many such customs are followed," says Vyas Murthy, a priest, who performs funeral rites. Earlier, the funeral bed was made of logs of wood. Amid rise in coronavirus deaths, electric crematorium has come into place. But most of the relatives are not even sure whether the ashes they receive from 'kati kapari' (cemetery worker) belong to their family members or not.
Ever since the outbreak of the pandemic, rituals after death have taken a backseat and, in many families, the departed souls are deprived of receiving a decent final adieu as before.