A resident of Dehradun, S L Gulati (86) died on April 27 after a prolonged bout of illness. The family custom is to immerse the ashes of the deceased in the Ganga in Haridwar. However, Gulati’s ashes are waiting in a locker at the cremation ground in Lakhhibagh here. His son Rajiv booked it by paying Rs 100.
“When the lockdown ends, I will take the ashes from the locker and immerse it in the Ganga after the rituals,” Rajiv said.
Ashes of 26 other deceased people are also kept in the ‘asthi kaksh’ at the crematorium. “We have only 18 lockers, all of which are occupied. Ashes of others are kept in bags. Relatives are waiting for the lockdown to end so that they can take it to Haridwar,” said Suresh Paswan, crematorium in-charge.
He said some families will take the ashes to Paonta Sahib in Himachal Pradesh.
“The lockers used to be booked by those whose family members were coming from abroad to perform rituals. Now, all of them are occupied,” said Chandan, a panda who performs cremation. He wears a mask and sanitises his hands before every cremation.
Pandit Nitin Shukla, a priest and member of Ganga Sabha that organised Ganga Aarti at Har ki Pauri in Haridwar, said, “Haridwar is called mukti ka dwar (gate of salvation). People from across the country and abroad come here to immerse the ashes of their dear ones and perform rituals as per Hindu customs. But they cannot come now due to the lockdown. They are contacting priests and pandas over phone as they are worried that rituals cannot be performed on schedule.”
Shukla said he receives around 40 such calls every day. “I guide them over phone to perform some rituals at home, and ask them to come to Haridwar after the lockdown ends,” he said.
He said nearly 15,000 priests, pandas and others in Haridwar, who are associated with performing rituals at the ghats, are now jobless.
Pandit Lalit Prasad, a panda in Haridwar, said, “We are not allowed to go to the ghats to perform rituals. When people contact me over phone, I request them to postpone their visit if they have to perform rituals of happiness like janeu (thread ceremony) and mundan. But if it is related to death, I ask them to perform basic rituals at home.”
He said the lockdown had left pandas and priests without any source of earning.
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