Hindustan Times (Lucknow)
Now, seers to motivate people against burying dead on riverbanks
: After the recent reports of people burying their dead on riverbanks from various UP cities like Hamirpur, Unnao and Prayagraj, seers spread across the length and breadth of the country will soon be touring and convincing rural folk as well as poorly educated residents of cities located on the banks of rivers against doing so. They will motivate them to go for cremations using eco-friendly electric crematoriums instead.
Following an in-principle agreement among various senior seers of different akharas on the issue, Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP)—the apex decision-making body of 13 recognised Hindu monastic orders— has decided to table a formal proposal in this regard in its next meeting. The date and venue of the meeting will be decided soon.
Some claim it to be an age-old practice among residents of certain region while other blame it on locals being unable to afford proper cremations due to sudden spike in cost of wood during the pandemic.
“The practice of burying dead bodies on riverbanks is an old tradition among many communities and sects of Hindus of some regions across the country. Also, death owing to some specific reasons like snakebites or certain skin ailments besides dead bodies of children also prompt many to follow this practice as per their own beliefs. However, the threat of pollution due to these graves on riverbanks that rivers like Ganga and the Yamuna face cannot be denied,” said ABAB chief Mahant Narendra Giri.
“So even as the governments are doing their bit, we believe that the saints of the country also need to do their bit to save our sacred rivers, many of which are revered as goddesses, by millions in India,” he added.
“We want to involve all over 2.3 million saints affiliated with our different akharas who have presence in thousands of mutts, ashrams and temples dotting the country in this nationwide mission aimed at protecting the sacred rivers of the nation from pollution due to dead bodies buried on their banks,” Giri said.
“Following support shown by various saints in private discussions, we have now decided to table a formal proposal in our next meeting which we plan to hold soon depending upon the status of the pandemic,” said Giri who is also the secretary of Shri Panchayati Akhara Niranjan, one of the 13 recognised monastic orders.
With an aim to bring down the burials by one third within a year and further cut it down to half in another six months, the plan of the ABAP is to have the saints, who are revered and respected by locals, convincing people in cities and villages located along the rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Narmada and Kaveri among others to cremate their dead thereby not just protecting the rivers but also countless trees that are chopped to provide wood for traditional cremation, Mahant Narendra Giri said. General secretary, ABAP, Mahant Hari Giri, who is also chief patron of the Shri Panchdashnaam Juna Akhada, said burying the dead on sandy riverbanks needed to be stopped as this caused the sand getting displaced with time due to water current and strong winds and the bodies going into the river thereby polluting it.
“Even as saints strive to convince people to stop burying dead bodies on riverbanks, efforts also need to be made to provide some land near villages etc to enable Hindus to bury their dead keeping in with the tradition of ‘samadhis’ as this too would help curtail people from using riverbanks for the purpose,” he said.