Holy immersion of unclaimed urns in the times of COVID
Vijay Sharma, a scribe by profession, elaborates on varied aspects of how he began to collect unattended urns and immerse them in the holy Ganga at Haridwar
This season of death appears to be rather too long . Every single house has a macabre tale. Death has no preferences. The atmosphere resonates with deadly sound of silence. In Delhi, it seemed like an unending requiem. The more aggressive second wave has spiked death toll as the microscopic devil is devouring thousands of lives every day and the count is still on.
Delhi seemed swollen by mounds of dead bodies; roads became cemeteries and the biers are seen queued up outside the crammed crematoriums. In this pandemic- triggered lockdown, crematoria were running full house; heartlessness and lack of empathy could well be seen around. After dead bodies were cremated somehow, their own kith and kin ignored their ashes sometimes too conveniently, sometimes circumstaces were such that they couldn't collect them
Even the last honours were not bestowed to many in these virus-ravaged times. However, There is an organisation performing last rites for the dead who were left unclaimed.
It is true that the dead tell no tale but they carry a number of tales after they are gone.
Vijay Sharma, a scribe by profession, is a man of altruism and compassion who keeps alight the flickering flame of humanity and service for the dead. He elaborates on various aspects of how he began to collect unattended urns and immerse them in the holy Ganga at Haridwar. Sharma is the chief organiser of Shri Devotethan Sewa Samiti.
When did you initiate this?
It was started way back on June 06 in 2003, we had had 4183 urns from various crematoria and Vedically immersed them in the river.
Once while doing an exclusive story on cremation and irregularities in a crematorium I saw the piles of urns filled with ashes decked in a corner; unattended and ignored. I was moved, and I resolved to undertake this job.
How did you think of setting off on the last journey of the dead, 'pitra yatra'?
The main purpose is to liberate those ashes. There is a journey of a man who takes birth and walks his life and dies sometimes with none left to mourn his death. I decided to perform the last rites as per the tradition.
How do you go about collecting the urns from various crematoriums?
We collect only the unclaimed urns and ashes from crematoria in Delhi and across India and consign them to the holy waves of Ganga for their final journey. This is done through traditional rituals; ashes ought to be immersed for peace of the soul after death.
How often do you take out this yatra?
We take out this 'Pitra-yatra with all the required ceremony on an adorned chariot every year in the month of 'shraadh'. This long road journey across the city has more than 500 devotees marching along. This final travel begins from Shahidi Park, near ITO (Income Tax Office) and proceeds to Haridwar. The wagon reaches there in the night, we rest there overnight and in the morning, we immerse them in the serenity of the river Ganga.
How many rites has your Samiti performed?
We have for the past 19 years performed the last rites for 1,42,647 dead bodies. Besides, Delhi and the NCR, we receive parcels sealing the remains from other states across India.