Concerned over rising river pollution, sadhus of various orders are now seeking departure from tradition as they want adequate land to bury their dead instead of the practice of ‘Jal Samadhi’ (water burial) which has of late led to environmental concerns.

Swami Hari Giri, who is a Mahamandaleshwar of prominent Juna Akhara, explains that besides the ‘justified’ environment concerns, sadhus also feel that sanyasis’ vow to work for others’ welfare even after death remains unfulfilled as there are hardly any aquatic animals left in the polluted rivers to feed on the body, which is the purpose behind ‘Jal Samadhi’.

The demand for providing adequate land for burial was made at a meeting convened to look into the grievances of ascetics at the Kumbh Mela ground on Saturday in the presence of a host of officials, besides local MP Kunwar Reoti Raman Singh, who belongs to the ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh and has been nominated by the state government as its representative.

Swami Giri pointed out that at the ongoing congregation, five sadhus have so far been given jalsamadhi “as tradition forbids cremation of holy men and no land is available for Bhusamadhi”.

“The concept of Jalsamadhi had come into being with the idea that the mortal remains of the sadhu would be devoured by aquatic beings in keeping with the sanyasis’ vow to work for others’ welfare, both during life as well as after death,” he said.

“However, with the rising pollution levels in the rivers there has been a fully justified concern over the feasibility of Jalsamadhi.

“We too feel that since the water in the rivers is highly contaminated, it is quite likely that there are not enough aquatic living beings left and the mortal remains of sants rot in the water which is disrespect to them,” he said.

Swami Giri claimed that the demand for land had been raised before Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav when he visited the Kumbh Mela ground earlier this month to review preparations before the commencement of the congregation.

He also said the government in the neighbouring state of Uttarakhand had, after the 2010 Haridwar Kumbh, assured us that henceforth adequate land will be made available to sants for the aforementioned purpose.

“We also seek to clarify that we do not need very large tracts of land for the purpose. Samadhis of sants are not permanent structures. The samadhis are built in such a manner that after less than a year both the mausoleum and the mortal remains become one with the earth and the land is ready for fresh use,” he said.

The ascetics also raised the demand for adequate steps to improve the quality of water in the rivers in which millions of people, including thousands of sadhus, take holy dip during the Maha Kumbh.

The SP MP Raman Singh assured the ascetics that their grievances will be conveyed to the state government and proper action will follow.