No idea who created this rule that only male members can perform the last rites in Hinduism. Daughters are forbidden from performing the funeral rituals even when there is no male member in the family to do it. But some daughters are showing the courage to change the social norm – it is not easy they have to battle relatives, neighbors, friends, onlookers and all those that have an opinion on this highly personal matter.
Times of India writes about B G Indiramma from
who had the courage to perform the last rites of her father and also got herself tonsured (the practice of shaving the head during funeral ritual.) Mysore
Indiramma, an accounts officer with the Mysore Urban Development Authority, has four sisters. When her father Govindegowda died a fortnight ago, unmindful of all criticism, she lit the pyre after completing all rituals. Many were stunned when she asked the barber to tonsure her head just before the rituals.
Indiramma told TOI she had no qualms about losing her crowning glory. She had promised her mother she would perform her last rites as all her children were girls. “Three years ago, when my mother Alamma died, there was a ruckus at the cremation ground as the men, including my uncles and their sons, strongly opposed the idea and prevailed upon me not to break a ritual restricted to males,” she says. She was physically taken away from the cremation ground.
“I promised my father I would not succumb to any pressure and would perform his obsequies,” Indiramma says. She was more cautious this time and gave no inkling of her plans to her relatives. “Even my husband reluctantly agreed.” She struck down her husband's idea of allowing one of her two sons to perform the last rites.
Indiramma, a Vokkaliga, says there is no bar on women performing obsequies. “Puranas and Smruthis mention women in this regard.” She cites strong support of ethics and scriptures for her decision, which is being criticized by many of her relatives and friends.
We need more daughters like Indiramma
Hindu religion needs more daughters like Indiramma. And such daughters need the support of all those people who understand the true teachings of Sanatana Dharma.
There is no need for any scriptural sanction in Hindu religion for daughters to perform the funeral rites.
If you still feel the need for scriptural sanction, then read the first mantra of the Isha Upanishad, which extols the equality of not just all human beings but of all living beings.
Ishavasyam Idam Sarvam Yat Kim Cha Jagatyam Jagat
Tena Tyaktena bhunjitha, ma gradha kasyasvid dhanam
Know that all this whatever moves in this moving world is enveloped by God.
Therefore find your enjoyment in renunciation, do not covet what belongs to others.
Gandhiji Explained this first mantra of Isha Upanishad like this:
Since God pervades everything, nothing belongs to you, not even your own body. God is the undisputed unchallengeable Master of everything you possess. If it is universal brotherhood – not only brotherhood of all human beings but of all living things – I find in this first Mantra of Isha Upanishad.
Since he pervades every fiber of my being and of all of you, I derive from it the doctrine of equality of all creatures on earth.
Sons or daughters they all are the same in Hinduism. There is no difference – what a son can do that a daughter too can do. All that you need is the courage to stand up and protect dharma - the equality of all living beings.