--> Skip to main content

Hindu in Britain Loses Law Suit on Cremation on Traditional Open-Air Funeral Pyre

Davender Ghai, an elderly Hindu man, who wants an open-air cremation in United Kingdom when he dies, lost his case in the High Court in London. The devout Hindu was challenging the decision by Newcastle City Council in 2006, northeast England, which denied to let his body be burnt on an open-air pyre in line with his Hindu religious beliefs.

Davender Ghai is the founder of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society (AAFS) and had argued that a traditional open-air funeral pyre was essential for the release of his spirit into the afterlife and had suggested a site in a remote part of Northumberland. He wants his body to receive Vedic last rights and burned close to flowing water. Similar to what is the usual practice in Kashi.

BBC Reports

On Friday, Mr Justice Cranston ruled that pyres were prohibited by law, and the prohibition was "justified".

Mr Justice Cranston said that Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who had resisted Mr Ghai's legal challenge, argued that people might be "upset and offended" by pyres and "find it abhorrent that human remains were being burned in this way".

He said that while it was "a difficult and sensitive issue", the court had to respect the conclusion of elected representatives.

Those in support of pyres would have to change the "present balance of interests" through the political process, rather than the courts, Mr Justice Cranston said.

He ruled that Article 8 did not apply because an open-air pyre would not only affect family and private life but would also have a "public character".

Mr Justice Cranston gave Mr Ghai permission to take his case to the Court of Appeal.

Currently, Hindus in Britain are provided the facility to burn the body inside a building in the crematoriums.

Mr. Ghai has every right to be cremated on traditional open-air funeral pyre but not by creating a social problem. Not only in Britain but in several major cities and towns in India, several Hindus prefer electric crematorium - all the Hindu rituals are followed except that the body is not burnt on logs. He can have his wish fulfilled by traveling to Varanasi or Haridwar in India.

And being a devout Hindu, Davender Ghai is giving too much importance to perishable body. Body is only a temporary residence for the Atma. And Davender Ghai did not create the body; he is merely a link in the long chain of transformations.

Just as a person puts on new garments after discarding the old ones, similarly Atma acquires new bodies after casting away the old bodies. (Bhagavad Gita 2.22)

The Atma is neither born nor does it die at any time, nor having been it will cease to exist again. It is unborn, eternal, permanent, and primeval. The Atma is not destroyed when the body is destroyed. (Gita 2.20)

We are never away or outside the Supreme Soul. Moksha is this self realization that we are not just the body but a part of the Cosmic Whole. When we realize this there is no death or birth.