Outdoor cremation court challenge

by Rumbold
15th October, 2008 at 8:26 pm    

Currently, in the UK, outdoor cremations are not allowed. However, under the 1902 Cremation Act, outdoor cremations are not specifically banned, which is why Davender Kumar Ghai, a Hindu spiritual healer, has been allowed to seek a judicial review challenging the current refusal to allow outdoor cremation:

“In South Asia the vast majority of cremations for Hindus and Sikhs are held outdoors, often on the banks of a river that has been deemed holy. Although widely practised in the Sikh faith, outdoor cremations are not considered compulsory.

In Hinduism, however, there is more widespread agreement that the 4,000-year-old practice of open-air burning is the most spiritually appropriate way to release a soul from the body following death. Many Hindus believe that mechanical cremations lead to akal mrtyu (a bad death), where the soul is forced to mingle with other souls because it has not been able to escape.

On a hillside outside Brighton a marble memorial stands on a spot where 53 Hindu and Sikh soldiers who died fighting in the First World War were cremated outdoors. in 1934, the Home Office helped to organise the cremation in Woking of Shumshere Jung, a member of Nepal’s royal family and wife of the Nepalese ambassador at the time. Mr Ghai’s lawyers believe these examples will help show the courts that a precedent exists for open-air cremations.”

If there aren’t any public health issues I cannot see the problem with this.

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Filed in: Current affairs,Hindu,Religion

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  1. Don — on 15th October, 2008 at 8:57 pm  

    There are public health and other issues, although I personally, in principle, rather hanker after a flamboyant hilltop pyre as a way to go.

    I wrote a long comment on this when the question was raised, I dunno, eighteen months or so ago. I’ll see if I can find it.

  2. Amrit — on 15th October, 2008 at 8:58 pm  

    What about the harm to the environment, eh?!! ;-)

  3. persephone — on 15th October, 2008 at 9:03 pm  

    perhaps the then more environmental friendly Parsi practice of outdoor funerals in a high tower whereby vultures eat the bodies

    If outdoor funerals are allowed for Hindu’s & Sikhs etc then should not Parsi’s also have a right to practice their beliefs too?

  4. douglas clark — on 15th October, 2008 at 9:09 pm  


    Just a technical point. I think the UK is largely lacking in vultures, correct me if I am wrong.

  5. Unity — on 15th October, 2008 at 9:42 pm  

    Maybe so, Douglas, but after losing a shedload of cash in the Iceserve crash I’m sure the London Zoological Society would be grateful for any new revenue stream they can find.

  6. persephone — on 15th October, 2008 at 9:59 pm  

    Douglas…alternative birds of prey?

  7. douglas clark — on 15th October, 2008 at 10:38 pm  

    Yup, persephone, I suppose we do have carrion crows, etc. Lacks glamour though.

    Unity, that is the sort of diversification we need in the modern zoo industry…Your ideas will transform the staid conformity of zoodom.

    Have you ever considered a career as an experts expert?

    Perhaps I could be your apprentice who invents daft words just for fun.

  8. Roger — on 16th October, 2008 at 3:59 am  

    “, I suppose we do have carrion crows, etc. Lacks glamour though.”

    Not if they can inspire this:

    The Twa Corbies

    As I was walking all alane,
    I heard twa corbies makin a mane;
    The tane unto the ither say,
    “Whar sall we gang and dine the-day?”

    “In ahint yon auld fail dyke,
    I wot there lies a new slain knight;
    And nane do ken that he lies there,
    But his hawk, his hound an his lady fair.”

    “His hound is tae the huntin gane,
    His hawk tae fetch the wild-fowl hame,
    His lady’s tain anither mate,
    So we may mak oor dinner swate.”

    “Ye’ll sit on his white hause-bane,
    And I’ll pike oot his bonny blue een;
    Wi ae lock o his gowden hair
    We’ll theek oor nest whan it grows bare.”

    “Mony a one for him makes mane,
    But nane sall ken whar he is gane;
    Oer his white banes, whan they are bare,
    The wind sall blaw for evermair.”

    Also buzzards, kites, ravens- it’d help their spread.

  9. justforfun — on 16th October, 2008 at 9:59 am  

    Vultures are the prefered raptor although I don’t suppose it really matters :-)

    In my worst moments with my mother – I threaten her with the vultures – and now – even worse – the lack of them :-) .

    Here is some background reading for my fellow PPs


    Conclusions – be aware of ‘black swan events’ my friends. ‘diclofenac’ a simple pain killer has caused a 98% reduction in vultures (and explosion of pie dogs and rabies.) A catastrope for India’s ecology.

    So if there are to be outdoor cremations in the UK, just make sure the body is fully burnt and short cuts are not taken.

    “…often on the banks of a river that has been deemed holy.”

    this is the bit that would concern me – to prevent chemical leaching into the soil or river courses etc

    The Ganges is littered with bodies that have not been fully cremated – as wood is very very expensive. The snapping turles are very fat now , feasting on the nice cooked meat. Will pike in the UK become larger? no man-eating swan events in the future I hope!

    Roger – can a Raven etc really do the job quickly? If they could I would be fine about it. Vultures can strip you bare in 10 minutes. However I would have to be ‘diclofenac’ free on my death bed. Perhaps we could train our dogs to sniff out ‘diclofenac’ as they circle us three times to confirm death and wish our souls well on our journey.

    “…But once diclofenac was isolated as the cause, Parry-Jones returned to the Parsis and told them an aviary was out of the question. With hundreds of forms of diclofenac regularly prescribed to people on their deathbeds, it would have been the equivalent of laying out poisoned bait.”

    Thank Ahura Mazda – or should I say modern science – that someone was using their brain to think through the problem and before the ‘pet’ vultures could be poisoned.

    But all is not lost – they are making a return in Calcutta. Vultures have been seen circling, for the first time in years.


  10. Rumbold — on 16th October, 2008 at 11:09 am  


    Surely you would prefer the Viking-style burning at sea?


    Why not just use private equity bosses instead?

  11. Trofim — on 16th October, 2008 at 12:29 pm  

    I think things have changed a bit since 1934. If you’ve got anything bigger than a back garden, you need permission from Defra even to burn a few sticks of wood.
    The ethos of control freakery promulgated by NuLabour permeates all local government now:


  12. persephone — on 16th October, 2008 at 2:32 pm  

    and what if you insisted on a cryogenic funeral?
    Hmmm I wonder how your local council would respond to that request.

    Probably not very env friendly either though one would be re-cycling of sorts

  13. ann — on 16th October, 2008 at 3:49 pm  

    there is a theory that the celts used the corpse-eating-bird disposal method with crows. of course if the towers were built in the chilterns then the red kites could be used.

  14. Pritam — on 30th October, 2008 at 10:03 am  

    Please don’t include Sikhs in this matter. We do not support this at all. OK it is done in India because they do not facilities. I remember sometimes ago that the Indian Government wanted to provide a Electric furnace on banks of Ganga and the Hindu pundits refused. Of course there is pollution in the modern methods as well but the outside cremation is worse and unhygienic. Let us stick to the modern methods and forget about souls are free when you cremate outside and the souls are stuck in chimneys in the modern method. Just send your beloved with respect

  15. persephone — on 30th October, 2008 at 11:32 am  

    Pritam @ 14

    I agree wholeheartedly.

  16. justforfun — on 30th October, 2008 at 1:41 pm  


    Coming to a river near you !!!

    Yikes !!! I’ll think twice when going for a swim now

    I saw the programme – it was a very small part of the river, and at quiet an altitude, so the water must have been cold – I would never have though that such a large fish could get enough to eat, but I suppose the cold and regular meals combined to allow a long life just resting on the bottom, eating every now and then and getting bigger and bigger, year by year. There was some mention that the fish could tell it was feeding time by the scent of burnt wood and the noise on the shore.


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