Defying a centuries-old tradition, two daughters in Odisha’s Bargarh district carried the body of their 70-year-old mother to the cremation ground for last rites.
Chandrakanti (35) and Rosy (30) took the step after no man from the village came forward to carry Dei Pradhan’s body even several hours after her death Monday.
“They were forced to act as pallbearers after waiting for nine hours, as no man in the village came forward to carry the body. Though women in our society are not supposed to carry the dead, they had no other option,” said Sushant Mishra, secretary of Abhimanyu Sahitya Sansad, a literary organisation from the district.
Pradhan’s husband had left the village 15 years ago after he was diagnosed with leprosy. Since then villagers have shunned the family.
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Activist Biswajit Sha said: “In Hindu society, the sons are supposed to perform last rites. But we are happy that daughters have done it.” He, however, lamented the treatment given to the family by the villagers even in the time of their grief.
On Monday, as Pradhan breathed her last, both the daughters waited till 4 pm for help from the villagers. But even Pradhan’s brother, who lives in the neighbouring village, did not turn up. Later, the two daughters, along with Chadrakanti’s husband carried Dei’s body to the cremation ground. Chandrakanti then lit the funeral pyre with help from a few volunteers from the nearby Sarakanda village.
“As my father had died of leprosy, no one turned up to help us. We had to cremate my mother on our own,” said Chandrakanti.
A few months ago in the same district, a woman had lit the funeral pyre of her father-in-law, who had wished that his last rites be performed by his daughter-in-law.