Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cremation woes

In my village, Olavipe, cremation sometimes poses a problem. It is difficult to obtain the right type of wood on short notice to burn the dead bodies.

Possibly, other places without an electric crematorium or a public burning ghat that has support facilities also face this predicament. Therefore I am recording a project underway in our place to tackle this problem so that it might be useful to others as well.

To burn a dead body, about 400 to 500 kilograms of wood is required. In addition, 50-75 kilograms of coconut shells are also needed. In the olden days we (Thekkanattu Parayil Family) used to provide all these, free of course. (See A tree of death? at Song of the waves - Parayil A. Tharakan Blog) But now most people take care of the need themselves.

This is as it should be, for those who can afford. But the difficulty they face is the immediate availability of fire wood when the need arises. After a person dies, the search for wood to burn the body begins. It is somehow obtained and the rituals are carried out. But in most cases there is a lot of running around and the suppliers exploit the urgency.

My brother Jacob is implementing a project in Olavipe to tackle this problem. One could call it a Pyre Bank. We provide a proper storage facility and donate a buffer stock of one or two tons of wood and sufficient quantity of coconut shells. Others also are welcome to contribute. Anyone who needs the material for cremation can draw from this stock. But what they take has to be replaced within a specified period.

Representatives of the organizations of different communities in Olavipe administer the facility. It is that committee’s responsibility to ensure that the stock is replenished within the stipulated time. The periodic turnover prevents the wood from becoming too dry and therefore fast burning.

The idea is very well received by the people of Olavipe. Even the vicar of the local church is involved in the project even though the Christians are not normally cremated.


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