When a modern crematorium was redesigned to suit beliefs

The gas-based crematorium along the Tunga came up in 2014 at a cost of ₹80 lakh

January 06, 2020 11:57 pm | Updated 11:57 pm IST - Shivamogga

An inside view of the gas-based crematorium in Shivamogga.

An inside view of the gas-based crematorium in Shivamogga.

The design of a modern gas-based crematorium constructed to perform last rites in an environment-friendly manner in Shivamogga district that has given birth to rationalists like poet laureate Kuvempu, has now been changed owing to the prevailing beliefs related to performance of death rituals.

To avoid the usage of firewood for burning of the dead, Shivamogga City Corporation constructed a gas-based crematorium at its cremation ground on the banks of the Tunga at Vidya Nagar in 2014. A sum of ₹80 lakh was spent for the purpose.

The burning chamber of the crematorium was designed such that the head of the deceased faced the east and the feet faced the west, which was deemed scripturally inappropriate for ‘Apara Karma’, the rituals related to last rites. It is said that a few priests had advised against using this crematorium.

Owing to this, the public showed reluctance to use the crematorium. There were no takers even for the offer by the corporation to allow cremation for free. Instead, the public preferred to perform the last rites by creating a traditional firewood pyre on the same premises by paying a fee of ₹1,800. For a few days, the gas-based crematorium was used to burn unclaimed dead bodies. The machinery in the crematorium had developed a technical problem in March 2017 and was shut since then. As the crematorium was not utilised by the public, the corporation had also not shown any interest in immediate repair work.

The corporation then passed a resolution in June 2017 to alter the design of the crematorium as per the norms related to Apara Karma. Speaking to The Hindu , S.N. Channabasappa, Deputy Mayor, said that ₹3 lakh has been spent to alter the design and the direction of the burning chamber has been changed.

He said that technical glitches in the crematorium have also been resolved. As beliefs and emotions are involved while performing last rites, the corporation decided to change the design as per public demand. Moreover, since the gas-based crematorium was constructed as part of go-green initiative of the corporation, the redesign exercise was taken up. The crematorium is open to public, he added.

Kanthesh Kadaramandalagi, theatre activist and rationalist, told The Hindu called the entire exercise of redesigning a wastage of taxpayers’ money. It is another case of a government project becoming redundant owing to its execution without considering the needs of the users, he added.

The work of changing the design of the crematorium, the direction of the burning chamber and repairing the machinery there, was executed by a Hyderabad-based private firm.

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