Debate continues about UK Hindu funeral rites

By staff writers
April 20, 2007

Following media coverage for the campaign by the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society to legalise open air funeral pyres, Hindu Council UK (HCUK) general secretary Anil Bhanot says his organization is not in favour of this move - but is seeking ways in which crematoria might better assist families of the deceased to perform the last death rites in accordance with the Vedas.

Last week Ecumenical News International, Ekklesia and other media outlets reported the call for a modification of the Cremation Act 1902 which would allow open-air cremations. The head judge of the administrative court in the Queen's Bench Division recently ruled that it is in the public interest to allow a legal application for this development.

However Mr Bhanot says that “the HCUK has never supported the introduction of open air pyres, believing them to be cultural, rather than a religious phenomenon and unsuited to the British climate.”

The Hindu Council UK says it has been consulting its members, and while they understand and sympathise with the concerns of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society, “the consensus of opinion appears to be that there is no theological requirement for open air funeral pyres in the UK and that the majority of British Hindus do not wish to see them introduced here.”

“However, as a result of our enquires, it has also become clear that many within the 550,000 strong UK Hindu community feel facilities at British crematoria do not fully meet their needs and we have begun the process of commissioning a report on this matter”, he continued.

The report will explore what the UK Hindu community feels, address the theological and practical issues raised and suggest ways in which crematoria might better assist families of the deceased to perform the last death rites in accordance with the Vedas.

“We hope our forthcoming report will deliver a potential solution to benefit the majority of UK Hindus and satisfy the needs of the minority who currently believe the only answer to their problems is to allow outdoor pyres,” said the HCUK general secretary.

The Hindu Council UK says it is Britain’s largest national network of Hindu temple bodies and cultural organisations coordinating all different schools of Hindu theology within the UK.

The census of 2001 identified Hindus as Britain's third largest faith group after Christians, the largest, and Muslims.

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