The Mercury

Priests refuse to conduct last rites for fear of Covid


AMID the lockdown imposed in Bihar to check coronaviru­s infections, the state government may have given permission for allowing marriages with certain restrictio­ns, but finding priests for solemnisin­g marriages or conducting a “shradh” and the last rites of a person is proving tough for many people.

The fear of Covid-19 has not spared priests which is why they are avoiding performing marriages or last rites. People in cities are desperate to find priests to conduct “shradh”. They are willing to shell out higher dakshina (a donation) so the rituals can be completed and the dead person’s soul can find peace.

Many people have moved to other states to find priests. Even if they find a priest, due to markets remaining closed during lockdown they are unable to arrange the materials for the last rites.

Satyadev Choubey, a resident of Bigha village, died three days ago but his family could not find a priest to conduct his last rites.

They finally found a priest from Harihargan­j in neighbouri­ng Jharkhand, who came.

The priest performs the rituals on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th day after the death of a person for which they are now charging hefty sums.

A case was reported from Bhagalpur where the family of Mukesh Kumar Singh, a resident of Sikanderpu­r, had to call a priest from Gonda after his death from Covid-19.

Pandit Vindeshwar Pathak, known for conducting last rites in Aurangabad, said: “Sanatan Dharma has a ritual observed for 13 days for attaining peace of the departed soul. After these 13-day rituals the soul of the deceased achieves peace. At present, a large number of people are dying every day from Covid-19. Earlier, there used to be calls asking for conducting ‘shradh’ of one or two people which has now gone up to five to six people.”

After the death of a person from Covid-19, priests are reluctant to perform the last rites for such people. They are frightened that their family would also get infected with Covid-19.

People are also finding quick-fix ways to complete the last rites.

Priests are also hard to find for marriages. People say that priests have started demanding more money for marriages, too.

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