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Ashes ceremony Ganges

Hindu Scattering Service on the Ganges in India

The Hindu population of the UK increases year on year, in the last census in 2011  817,000 people in England and Wales  identified themselves as Hindus which is 1.5% of the population.

A proportion of these would loved to have their ashes placed in the Ganges in India after their death.

For some time we have been trying offer this service for people who live in the UK, so far transportation of cremation ashes from UK to India has proved difficult.

However this barrier should not prevent us trying to promote service for Hindu’s wishing to perform Asthi-visarjan(the final rites for the disposal of Antyesti in accordance with the Hindu religion), in India. The ceremony is performed in Haridwar an an ancient city in North India’s Uttarakhand state, where the River Ganges exits the Himalayan foothills – renowned for it hindu funerals, where the the ashes of the deceased are collected in an earthen pot and consigned to the holy river

HinduPartha offer a range of services to assist in this:

  • Ash Funeral Rites at Haridwar – this can be done even if the family is not present
  • Complete guidance in performing the ritual “Shradh”
  • Pind daan at Har Ki Pauri and other ritual places.

For further information or clarification, E-mail –

Call: (INDIA) +91-11-65650218

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Cremation trends in south korea

South Korea has adopted cremation in a big way

In the 1994 20.5% of South Koreans chose cremation, this figure has shot up to 86% last year. A massive change in less than a generation.

I have never known any county’s funeral practises to change as radically as quickly, in the UK the same change took three times as long a an we are still not at 86%

This massive shift was reported in the Korea Herald and was based on a Korean the Ministry of Health and Welfare report.

The rational from the report was: “Many find it too troublesome to maintain grave sites, which require regularly cutting weeds and grass,”

“On top of people becoming more practical, there are environmental concerns as well. We live in a small country and there isn’t enough land for burial sites.”

Interesting the report also showed that more Koreans are also interested in eco-friendly ways to bury cremated ashes.

“I would like to choose to go back to nature after death, in the most genuine way possible,” said Jang Ha Yeon, a 27-year-old office worker in Seoul.

“Having a grave site for myself feels like being a burden to mother nature. I hope to be cremated for sure. I’m not sure how I would like my ashes to be treated yet. But the idea of ‘Bios Urn’ sounds nice.”

In response to this and the growing number of predicted deaths the Korean government is set to increase the number of crematoria and number on eco-friendly sites at which to bury them.

This all seems too quick to me, the rise in cremations that is. Funeral practises for any country tend to be follow a slow trajectory of change. Beliefs and traditions are established over generations and it takes generations to change them so why is Korea different?

Here I think is possibly one reason – Religion. I had a look at the religious make up of Korea and I found something that surprised me. Over half the population (56%- 2015 national census) identify themselves as having no formal affiliation with a religion. With remaining population made up mainly from the following the groups Protestantism (19.7%), Buddhism (15.5%), and Catholicism (7.9%).

Is it the lack of religious doctrine that has enable a population to radically and quickly change their funeral practise, more than their desire to be free of grave maintenance? Well I think it could well account for the rate of change if not the catalyst.

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unclaimed ashes japan

The rise of unclaimed ashes in Japan

The issue of unclaimed ashes in Japan is becoming a problem for the local authorities. A trend mirroring the UK. Whilst there are cultural differences, many of the issues are similar to those in the UK: firstly the weakening of bonds within extended families and thus the willingness of extended family willing to pay; secondly the rise in life expectancy such that now the principal carer is also at retirement age and may not be able (financially or physically) to help. Thirdly is mobility people often not on hand to help.

I terms of actual numbers, it appears to be less of an issue than in the UK. The example quoted was of a municipal authorities’ cemetery in city of Saitama (a city about the size of Birmingham near Tokyo) where there around 600 unclaimed urns – it is difficult to draw actual comparison as this issue in the UK is handed on to the funeral director. Interesting and perhaps because it has become a local authority problem, it is the authority that are taking steps to tackle the issue.

Currently the authority will take on the responsibility if there is no one else to and it costs them in the region of  ¥200,000 to ¥250,000 per case (which is £1300-£1600: not too dissimilar from the UK).

So, in an effort to reduce the burden the City of Yokosuka, launched a program in 2015 to support low-income elderly people without anyone to depend on to prepare for their death. The programme is referred to as “ending plan support,” it offers residents on a low income, help to pay and choices of what to whilst they are still alive.

While the scheme has had a very modest take up (23 so far) it has reduced the amount of unclaimed ashes. Perhaps in reaction to families discussing the issue rather than choosing to avoid it?

Apart from the fact that local authorities are engaging in the issue, the other interesting point was the final resting place. Some see the racks of unclaimed urns as a final destination, yet the authorities were looking to bury (as a cheaper option) the ashes after a period of time, which some found where unhappy about – “I felt really sad. … I wondered if it was OK to drag them out of the vault and put them in a hole,” said Kazuyuki Kitami, a deputy manager in the Yokosuka welfare division which set up the scheme. So, what many here in the UK would consider to be a favourable option burial was considered to be less so.

Anyway, it is an interesting article:



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Family appeal for someone out in New Zealand to scatter their grandma’s ashes

Olive Chesworth from Liverpool adored New Zealand and Maori culture. So much so she spent a large amount of time in antipodean climes. After her first visit in 1991 she saved up and spent six months there every other year.

Now she passed away her family are looking to scatter some of her ashes on the archipelago.

“Mum would spend six months with people she met, and would come back over to see other people she met,” said her 49-year-old son Lee Chesworth. “She absolutely loved New Zealand.”

“She stayed on farms where she would “roll up her sleeves and get stuck in”. She was fascinated by Maori culture and people. When shearing gangs came to the farm, she ate with the workers and quizzed them about their tattoos.”

Her son is putting a shout out to a New Zealand family, “or even some ex-Scousers”, to send the ashes to and perform the scattering duties.

“I’d love to put a little bit of mum over in New Zealand so when the kids are older, they can go and visit a little bit of grandma while they are there.”

Anyone wanting to help the Chesworth family can contact and their details will be passed on.

Lovely and heart-warming, what a nice son. There are two issues I think Mr Chesworth may encounter, one obstacle may be cost the price for sending ashes anywhere abroad can be very high. The second issue and I feel almost bar-humbugish bringing it up: the scattering of ashes is quite offensive to Maori culture, in fact there is a big hoo-hah down in Kiwi Land at the moment – tribal elders coming into conflict with those from Hindu belief system as Hindus insist on the ashes being scattered in the water…

Here are a few articles on the subject:

Scattering ashes in New Zealand or this one – New Zealand 

This is the original story:

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trinidad ashes

Unsightly deposit of cremated remains in Trinidad and Tobago

I hate having to admit my ignorance, but I never knew: the largest ethnic make-up of people in Trinidad and Tobago hail from the Indian Sub-continent. And with them they brought Hinduism and associate death rituals.

Well it seems that where bodies are being cast into the waters of the river Caroni the site becoming very degraded to the point that many remains are not making it into the water at all and are piling up on the river bank, making it unpleasant to visit and use and also preventing the immersion of ashes into the water as dictated by Hindu belief culture.

This has been brought to the attention of the Authorities by a Mr Jadoo, who also sits on the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (the Hindu Council)

Jadoo said “I was here on Wednesday last for the cremation of my brother-in-law. Normally after a cremation when everything is burnt, the ashes and remains are collected the following day to do the obligatory prayers.

“I was appalled to know at the end of the walkway or gangway that you have to lift the wheelbarrow and throw the remains over and they’re not reaching the water.

“That is not the way as prescribed in our sacred texts the Garuda Purana governing the rites for the departed soul, which clearly states that it must be immersed in water and that is the only time it becomes a liberated soul.”

He wants the authority to build a chute so the ashes can go into water with ease or extend the gantry over the water.

The local authority confirmed that the cremation site was their responsibility and he was not aware of the accumulation of ashes.

They said, “We take very seriously the way that we treat our deceased because that is one of the marks of a civilised society, the way we treat persons who left us.

“We know that it is a sacred site and we will have officers visit and myself also.”

And that “[they] will listen to the recommendations of affected family members and the corporation needed to look at a better way to dispose of the ashes.”

The original story:

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church ashes religion

Why I understand the Catholic Church’s stance on scattering ashes

There are a number of people and organisations that have been getting rather hot under the collar about the recent instruction from the Vatican clarifying the Catholic Church’s position on the scattering ashes and the fact that they  do not like it, or splitting ashes, or jewellery containing ashes, so on and so forth. There are those who think that the church is doing it to increase revenue – I would disagree. There are certain sections of the Hindu faith who think it is inflammatory – I don’t think it has anything to do with Hindus or Hinduism.  This instruction is only for it’s followers; they do not expect those of other beliefs to adhere or even agree with it.

You might expect us to be up in arms shouting about this: liberty of choice, ‘don’t you tell me what to do’, etc. etc. Not so. The Catholic Churches should tell its faithful in what it believes are the correct death rituals, that is part of its purpose: to instruct people as to what course of action it considers is the closest in alignment to biblical teachings.

I can also see the rationale for this intervention, in their opinion the evolution of death rites are departing from their desired approach. They consider these trends to be diverging from scripture and leaning towards ‘pantheism, naturalism or nihilism‘ (their words, not mine). Furthermore, unless I have misunderstood something along the way – Catholicism is different to Protestantism in several ways, but one core difference is that interpretation of God’s meaning comes from the top, the Pope has a greater understanding of the Almighty’s meaning than the cardinals and so on down the line. Protestantism allows its followers to have more of a one to one to one relationship with God. So central control of the faith is very much in line with the ethos.

Let’s also be clear, the Vatican has not changed its stance – it has always been thus. As far as I can see the main distinction of this instruction compared to previous missives is the explanation of ‘why’ people shouldn’t scatter. It always seemed to me that the reason they didn’t like scattering ashes is because the body should be kept whole for the day of resurrection, where now the reasoning is more to with scattering being against tradition and shows less devotion to the faith. I am thinking that the previous reasoning was less than satisfactory because (a) as God is omnipotent, the resurrection of the body in whatever form should not present a problem, and (b) if someone were to die horribly in say a plane crash then they would be no less likely to resurrected than anyone else.

The people I have sympathy for are precisely the people the Vatican is intending to target: the faithful who have a slightly different interpretation God’s meaning than they do  – people that are comfortable with their faith and scattering ashes too. For example: a partner whose loved one’s ashes are scattered on a hillside somewhere and they wish to join them there when they pass away. This could lead to huge anxiety, the pull between love and faith, which should be entirely intertwined

This is made worse  by the penalty for non-compliance, ’When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.’

I am not sure I can translate this effectively, so using the example above. If you don’t make a fuss and tell your son or daughter what you want, and don’t write it down, and tell them it is to do with proximity to a loved one and not done so to cock-a-snoop at the church – then they should be okay… (ummm, wishful thinking  on my part?).

Also the denial of a christian funeral, surely this is only a Roman Catholic christian funeral? A member of protestant C of E clergy wouldn’t feel bound by this, and family could ask them… help think I am well outside my depth here? Okay so perhaps ‘I understand‘ their position is stretching it a bit far …

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cremation ashes catholic church

Vatican’s update stance regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation for Roman Catholics

The Vatican has issued an Instruction to the faithful regarding the scattering of ashes.

Whilst setting out of their position in many ways makes sense and it is clearly referenced, we will attempt to summarise and translate and convey the message in a slightly more condensed and accessible form. This is our interpretation and I apologise in advance if I have missed any subtleties or nuances.

In essence they wish to make clear that the following are unacceptable:

  • The scattering of ashes: ‘in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way,’
  • The ashes can not ‘be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewellery or other objects.’
  • The splitting of ashes, between family members or friends.
  • Keeping the ashes at home (there may be very specific exceptions to this)

What you must do is inter the ashes in a ‘sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.’

If you don’t follow this and do this wilfully against this instruction – a Christian funeral must be denied to that person.

Why have the Catholic Church taken this stance?

There are a few reasons that appear evident in their instruction.

To put a stop to the creeping trend towards liberal or personnel interpretations of faith, which they consider unacceptable. In their words ‘[The church] cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body.’.

To make it clear you should choose burial as burial demonstrates a greater commitment to the faith, rather than the resurrection of the body being prevented.

The third appears to be they consider scattering ashes shows a lack of respect to the dead, which always has been very important to the Catholic Church. And by burying them in a ‘sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away.’

Below is the full instruction and a link at the bottom of the page.


Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo
regarding the burial of the deceased
and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation


  1. To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor5:8). With the Instruction Piam et Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that “all necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the condition that this choice has not been made through “a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church”.[1]Later this change in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).

During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread. Having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and numerous Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.

  1. The resurrection of Jesus is the culminating truth of the Christian faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very beginnings of Christianity: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve” (1 Cor15:3-5).

Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access to a new life, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). Furthermore, the risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep […] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20-22).

It is true that Christ will raise us up on the last day; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. In Baptism, actually, we are immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and sacramentally assimilated to him: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col2:12). United with Christ by Baptism, we already truly participate in the life of the risen Christ (cf. Eph 2:6).

Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”.[2] By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the resurrection: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live”.[3]

  1. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.[4]

In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death,[5] burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.[6]

The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.[7]

By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body,[8] and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity.[9] She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body.

Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.[10]

Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for having buried the dead,[11] and the Church considers the burial of dead one of the corporal works of mercy.[12]

Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.

Through the practice of burying the dead in cemeteries, in churches or their environs, Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimize, or relegate to the purely private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.

  1. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body.[13]

The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”.[14]

In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.

  1. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.

From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes “in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church”.[15]

The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.

  1. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.
  2. In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimized by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.
  3. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.[16]

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gerhard Card. Müller

+ Luis F. Ladaria, S.I.
Titular Archbishop of Thibica


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cremation reef hawaii

Where west meets east: memorial reefs in Hawaii

Memorial reefs are well established in the US the most famous is arguably the Neptune Society: a fantastical underwater sea-scape set off the coast of Florida – clear blue warm seas, absolutely perfect.

With those sort of climatic conditions where else in the States might be ideally suited, well Hawaii for one….?

Now cast your gaze to the other side of pacific where the Maoris are engaged in a protracted battle with the authorities on where ashes can be scattered, they considered the practise to be culturally offensive.

The Polynesian diaspora covers many thousands of miles over many centuries, and so it would appear that similar objections seem to be being raised in the island state of the US.

In a report in the Hawaii News Now there highlights just such a proposal (and backlash). The company Hawaii Memorial Reefs, is planning to construct a reef, where the ashes are incorporated into reef balls that are dropped 1/2 a mile offshore to create a habitat for wildlife. But the indigenous population aren’t that pleased.

“I’m already hearing from people who are appalled by this. In fact, kupuna are saying this is hewa,” cultural adviser for Livable Hawaii Kai Hui Ann Marie Kirk.

“For me personally, as a Hawaiian too, it just doesn’t sit well in my na’au,” Clyde Kaimuloa said.

Unsurprisingly the company disagrees: “We’re actually not trying to build an underwater cemetery, we’re trying to build an artificial reef and we’re using the cremains of your loved one and the dedications to actually help fund the building of the reef,” Richard Filanc said.

He went onto say that he does not consider it an “underwater cemetery,” rather an alternative to traditional burial while enhancing Hawaii’s ecological habitat.

“Because we’re an island community, we have limited space. And as the population grows, we need more land to develop for cemeteries and this is actually more environmentally conscious than actually developing more land for cemeteries,”

“We didn’t just fall off the back of the kalo truck, we understand that this is about money. This is a commercial venture and we already have scientists who are saying that that’s not good for the bay, that Maunalua doesn’t need that,” Kirk said.

The company hope to start creating the reef next year…..

See video below
Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL

Here is a link to the Neptune society –

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Mar Thoma Syrian Church cremation

Mar Thoma Syrian Church – Cremation is now allowed

The various religions in the world is a constant source of wonder to me. The various sects seems never ending, here is a new one on me, the Mar Thoma Syrian Church – never heard of it? It has over a million followers. Although as religions go this fairly unique. It is a Syrian Christian church in the state of Kerala, India. That traces its origins to the missionary activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. The church defines itself as “Apostolic in origin, Universal in nature, Biblical in faith, Evangelical in principle, Ecumenical in outlook, Oriental in worship, Democratic in function, and Episcopal in character”. That is a great description!

Anyway it has given permission for its clergy to be cremated. Which might not seem that big a deal, but for Churches to change that attitude towards such issues, changing millennia of precedent it is a big deal.

What is interesting it perhaps where and what rationale they have given for allowing the change.

In a circular issued to all parishes of the Church: “The Metropolitan/Episcopa reserves the right to permit the cremation of the mortal remains of the clergy either in an electric crematorium or otherwise on the basis of a prior request by the clergy,”

It added: “This could be permitted only after the burial service is completed at the parish.” “The mortal remains after cremation must be buried in either the family vault or single vault,”

Why has it chosen to make this significant step? Because of the limited space in cities.

Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma explained:  “Today many are moving to cities from villages, this includes clergymen. Sometimes we face lots of problems to provide space for all for a burial in city parishes.”

The rationale for the change of heart came from Joseph Mar Barnabas Episcopa, Thiruvananthapuram diocesan bishop of the Church: “There was a belief among Christians earlier that body should not be cremated as it has to be resurrected. This thinking is changing today. God can bring back life even if it becomes ashes. The Church is leaning towards to this ancient concept of Hindu culture.”

So that’s okay then.

Original story

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new zealand ashes

Ash scattering in New Zealand and internet intolerance!

New Zealand has a particular problem. The majority of the population are British/European settlers and as with most of this element of Western culture they are moving towards increased secularisation and an increase in cremation. As a consequence more families are scattering the ashes of a loved one over the hills and lakes of this stunningly beautiful country.

But there is a problem, the indigenous Māori population find the practise offensive and disrespectful. Leaving policy makers in a bit of a spin.

In 2014, a company that represents the six runanga (the governing council or administrative group of a Māori Tribe) within Christchurch, wanted the practice prohibited because it was culturally offensive. So, Christchurch City Council, in a move to placate all, have devised a compromise.

Specifically, the Maori tribes did not want people to able to scatter ashes in any of the six city parks [Note: these are quite a lot larger than the city parks one might expect in the UK], however this objection has now been withdrawn in favour of specific sites being designated for the scattering of ashes.

The council’s policy team leader Claire Bryant said a prohibition was impractical. “The practice tends to happen on weekends and evenings when few staff are present and although family and friends may gather for a period of time, the act of scattering can happen very quickly and may not be observed by staff.”

The report to the council puts forward that there should be specific sites at parks and reserves where ashes can be scattered. The report also argues for the development scatter gardens in cemeteries. And the publishing of a guidelines to help educate and promote good practice.

Areas within five parks have been identified as being suitable for the scattering of ashes, including Barnett Park, Halswell Quarry Park, Victoria Park, Bottle Lake Forest Park and Stanbury Park in Wainui.

The parks were identified because they were not among the most visited, including the Botanic Gardens and Mona Vale, where the scattering of ashes could be offensive or a nuisance to other people using the area. There were no sports grounds at the parks, the areas were not within 50 metres of picnic tables, or waterways and there were no sites classed as wahi tapu (sacred) nearby.

 This story is interesting for two reasons: the hoo-ha this created for what appears to be a fairly minor issue according to the articles statistics –

The council had no way of knowing exactly how many ashes were scattered in its parks each year. The Cremation Society of Christchurch provided 1800 cremations annually across two sites in Linwood and Harewood. About 1200 of those were placed in its own cemetery gardens and another 266 ashes were interred in the council’s cemeteries, leaving about 300 unaccounted for.

However, people could choose to scatter those ashes on private property, outside the city boundaries or keep the ashes in an urn.

And whilst the trend is on the increase the figures are still fairly low.

BUT …this is the issue that caught my eye and in truth perplexed and saddened me at the same time. The article got 18 comments, all but one entirely negative.

“no one’s business but mine”; “I will be scattered where i want”; Culturally offensive to who ??????? Not to my culture it isn’t !!!!!!!!!!”; “This so called cultural insensitivity is just another way to control people” and so on and so forth.

Now this left me to ponder, are most of us really insensitive to the needs of others? Do we all think our self-deterministic rights and ‘our’ culture should have primacy over all others? Surely not. Are the Māori’s asking for something wholly unreasonable – not really.

My half-baked theory is that most people are pretty reasonable and understand that different cultures living amongst one another breads tolerance and understanding. I also think that it is perhaps uniquely the internet that provides a platform for those people with more polarised and less tolerant views. Those people that don’t necessary seem to find a willing audience amongst people you my meet at the bus stop or share an office with, but instead find validation of their prejudice through such commentary?

Imagine this, and I know it isn’t the same but go with me, if we substituted this issue for queuing. Queuing is, as any Brit will tell you, a cultural cornerstone. And say Christchurch had a problem with the Maori population pushing into queue in their civic buildings (I am sure they don’t by the way), so they decided to implement a policy to install barriers much like in an airport to help alleviate the issue. They reported this in the press and the Maori population decide respond in the same way as those above, try substituting ‘pushing in’ for ‘scattering’. It would make my and every other person like me, blood boil.

I don’t know, but I hope it is the frustrated and misguided few. I do think bit more love and kindness could go a long way.

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manchester buddist temple

Exhumation granted to family of Chinese Buddhist

Good news for the family of Mr Quoc Tru Tran. They have been given permission to remove his body from Manchester’s Southern cemetery in Chorlton, have it cremated, so that they can have them reinterred next to his wife in the Buddhist temple in Old Trafford.

The Church of England court that has jurisdiction over burial on consecrated ground only gives the permission in exceptional circumstances. And Geoffrey Tattersall QC, Chancellor of the diocese of Manchester, clearly thought that was the case here.

Mr Tran a practicing Buddhist, died suddenly from cancer in August 1994 and was then buried at Southern Cemetery in Chorlton . His wife died February 2016 and she was interred at Buddhist temple of Manchester Fo Guang Shan in Old Trafford. Shortly after his son, Tony Van Hon Tran, sort permission so his father could rest alongside his mother.

In his judgement, he ruled that at the time of Mr Tran’s death, there was no Chinese burial ground in Manchester and the ‘only option’ was to bury him near to some Chinese graves.

The family did not realise that the interment was in the Church of England consecrated section of the cemetery.

The judgement highlighted ‘language barriers’ which affected issues surrounding the death and said the family were new immigrants with ‘little understanding’ of UK culture or practices.

The ruling also ties in with Mr Tran’s wife’s last wishes.

Mr Tattersall QC, who also sits as a court judge, said Mr Tran was buried at the cemetery ‘because he died suddenly and his relatives did not understand the customs and practices of the Church of England, or that he was buried in the Church of England consecrated part of Southern Cemetery.’

Saying it would be ‘extraordinarily harsh’ to apply Christian theology to an issues involving Buddhism, he added that he was ‘wholly satisfied’ that it was an exceptional case and one where he should grant permission ‘on the basis of mistake’.

To my mind the judge was quite right, these where clearly exceptional circumstances and they are certainly unlikely they crop up elsewhere…!

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mosh pit scattering

Metal fan has his ashes scattered in the Mosh Pit

You’re not allowed to call it heavy metal any more so I am told, just metal. But still to my mind it is pretty much the same. Loud in volume, lots of drums and thrash guitar, not so many ballads and plenty of counter culture paraphernalia.

Metal bands seem to specifically go out of their way to stick to fingers up, still there is nothing new in youth culture doing that I suppose. Here we have to fine examples of the genre, Behemoth and splendidly titled Dying Fetus (not aiming to offend anyone with that name then). Well both granted a late fan’s dying wish to have his ashes scattered and one of their gigs.

Below is a video clip of Behemoth’s lead singer Adam Nergal Darski paying tribute to the former fan whose name was Nick (no surname given) at their recent performance in Chicago.

Before the bands strikes out the chords for the classic ‘Antichristian Phenomenon’, Mr Darski holds up a tube/vile to the crowd and say “I have never done this before. Our friend and massive Behemoth fan; his name was Nick. All I’ve got to say is, wherever you are, rest in peace, my friend.”
I think it would have been a bit more rock ‘n’ roll to cast it out into the mosh pit, instead of just pouring it in front of himself – but that’s just me.


Nick (or part thereof) was also scattered at a Dying Fetus event in early May. The band posted on Facebook prior to the gig: “A Dying Fetus fan named Nick from Illinois recently passed away, and his wishes were to have his ashes scattered on stage at a Dying Fetus show, what do you think, should we do it?” (this is the main photo)
Then following the gig they posted: “We just scattered Nicks’ ashes in the pit for his favourite song, ‘Homicidal retribution’, may he rest in the pit”.
May he rest in the pit – ho ho, oh I do like a clever play on words. Anyway well done Nick, a first I think – I have never come across this type of scattering ceremony – so hats off to you. May you rock forever dude [I am currently doing a ‘power fist sign’ but you can’t see that].

Attitudes to ashes are changing in Germany

Germany, traditionally, has always been one of the strictest countries in Europe in relation to cremated remains. In most German states it is illegal to keep, bury or scatter ashes anywhere outside of cemetery, but attitudes are changing according to a recent survey.

The survey of over 1000 people revealed that the vast majority of Germans (83 percent) “would not feel uneasy if their neighbour has an urn,” at home or buried in the garden

This long-held taboo seems to be be eroding quickly, 15 years ago 57 percent of respondents said they were fine with ashes nearby, while only three years ago 65 percent reported the same. Which is a massive shift in public opinion.

When it comes to barring citizens from keeping ash remains at home “the judiciary uses outdated values which cannot withstand a critical review,” said  Torsten Schmitt lawyer for Aeternitas’ – the company that carried out the research.

Germany’s restrictive burial regulations have started to relax in recent years. As we have previously reported the city-state of Bremen allows citizens to keep ashes in the home – ashes in Breman.

However, people seem a little less relaxed when it comes to allowing people to share a grave with their pet: with 49 percent in favor of this possibility and 48 percent were against. Interestingly it was younger people who were most in favor of the shared plots, while those over 60 strongly disagreed.

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ashes china ransom

Grave robbing ashes in China – thieves demand a ransom!

After writing over 500 articles on the subject you would think the subject would yield little in the way of surprises, not true. Here is a new issue that I had not come across or to be honest even considered.

In the Chinese city of Xinyang there has been a case of grave robbers removing ashes then seeking to extort a ransom.

The thieves stole the cremation urn containing the ashes of a Mrs Liu husband and ransacked his tomb, they left a phone number scrawled on his headstone demanding 20,000 yuan (which is around £2000 or $3000).

Mrs Liu paid the money, but the tomb raiders wanted more!

Apparently Police are investigating, and suspect a group that may be active “around the country”.

It would appear to as a result of three or  perhaps four trends in China

  1. Chinese authorities are promoting cremation over burial in an effort to reduce land take
  2. Certain Chinese citizens are becoming very wealthy
  3. In China family / ancestor veneration is very important aspect of the culture, and perhaps
  4. As capitalism takes greater hold so does some of its less desirable ‘by-products’ crime, greed and envy (although I appreciate this last one might be overstating it a bit!)

I was thinking off being flippant and saying the Lara Croft has been held pending further enquiries and yes I know the blog image is a bit tongue in cheek, but one can’t maintain a dower image at all times…

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Japanese ashes unclaimed

Ashes of thousands of unclaimed Japanese WWII civilian casualities

Japan has a legacy of thousands of set of unclaimed ashes that have remained stored in temples around the country since the end of WWII, despite the person being identified.

The families of more than 7,400 people have yet to claim ashes stored in eight cities across Japan, many of these victims died in US aids some got caught cross of the advancing forces.

In an effort to reunite the unclaimed remains, the newspaper Asahi Shimbun who first reported on the issue has tried to help contacting local authorities, private-sector organizations, temples and other parties. The Japanese government has always focussed on reuniting members of the armed forces but this is not the same for civilians killed in the conflict.

Occasionally families come in search of a loved one, but this is the exception. It is thought likely that sometimes that there is no one to collect the ashes as also perished in the conflict and the fact it was difficult at the time due to sheer numbers.

“The wartime authorities prioritised hiding corpses rather than identifying them so as not to lower citizens’ morale,” said Katsumoto Saotome, director of the Centre of the Tokyo Raids and War Damage. “If the authorities had actively sought bereaved families of the remains immediately following the war, more ashes may have been returned to their relatives by now.”

However this number pales when one considers that the Paper also learned that unidentified remains of more than 300,000 people were buried together at temples and other facilities in Okinawa, Tokyo and 11 other cities.

These numbers are significant ancestral worship is an important part of Japanese culture, which is demonstrate by the fact that this is issue 60 years on.

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mystery of ashes

The mystery of the ashes of the Indian nationalist Netaji

Subhas Chandra Bose, known more commonly as just Netaji is a famous figure in the Indian nationalist movement. During the second world war he pursued a number of routes to try and get the British out of Indian, first courting the Germans and then the Japanese however when his military campaign didn’t work, he decided to fly to the Soviet Union to see if he could get assistance from them. His plane was purported to have crashed in Taiwan, although many Indians at the time (and still to this day) don’t believe the body that was cremated was that of their leader.

The ashes now cause some controversy, they are kept in the Renkoji Temple in Tokyo and the monks believe they are the real ashes and presumably so do the Japanese government. So when there is a state visit from Indian to Japan, the Japanese ask if a visit to the temple to see the cremation urn should be put on the agenda.

The current Indian PM Mr Modi has decided not to visit, for fear of stoking up controversy. A commission was set up to decide upon the origin of the ashes: it concluded that the ashes are actually that of a Taiwanese solider, Irchiro Okura, who died of natural causes and was cremated in August 1945.

A letter from the priest of Renkoji temple on November 23, 1953, to then PM Jawaharlal Nehru, said: “I, a stranger to the late Netaji, was asked to keep the ashes by people who were strangers to me including Indians of whom I had never heard.”  This letter was cited as the reason for doubting the authenticity.

Previous Indian Prime Minsters’ have visited the temple but rarely in the last decade.  The family of Mr Bose declared the Prime Minster is in favour of DNA testing.

Now usually DNA testing won’t work due to temperatures destroying all the DNA. However, due to the cremation technique (probably open air) and the way the remains are treated (not powderised) there could be a chance the identity could be revealed…

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environmental cost cremation india

The environmental cost of cremation in India

I would argue that the environmental impact of cremation is less than burial, there is a need to compare two issues which are difficult to equate – Carbon versus land-take. I think the land-take is a more significant issue. The argument is even more in favour of cremation if the energy source is renewable. However the argument is not clear cut.

I came across an article from the website India Today. This massive country has population of around 1 billion Hindus, whose funeral tradition is cremation. What is more the tradition is open pyres fuelled by wood. In environmental terms this has the multiple layered impact: less efficient; reduction in green space if trees are not replaced; pollution from water dispose of partially cremated bodies and more significant impact on air quality (from the burn and the loss of trees). Add these impacts together and put them on the scale of India and you get big figures and big impacts.

And that was not the only interesting aspect to this article, but let us look at the scale and impact first.

The article says that.

  • A traditional Hindu funeral pyre takes six hours and burns 500-600 kg of wood to burn a body completely.
  • Every year, 50-60 million trees are burned during cremations in India, which results in about
  • 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions.
  • There is around 1/2m tonnes of ash produced

Environmentalists argue for education persuading the population to opt for cleaner methods and thus to produce a cultural shift. However the shift on offer seems to be a push towards electrical cremation, and ‘Most people don’t opt for electric crematorium because of various rituals. Like, for example, the eldest son must break his dead father’s skull with a bamboo stick after lighting the pyre. Also, ashes of different corpses tend to get mixed up in electric crematoriums.’ .

There is also a debate around the provision of wood, where this is going and who’s paying for what, all wrapped with splendid amount of committees, bureaucracy, inaction and general confusion. Not all of which, I confess, I understood.

So anyway, if you want a depressing/sobering read have a look:


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ashes cremation areminaia

Armenians are considering cremation, what don’t they like? Columbarium

Armenian parliament speaker Galust Sahakyan has been arguing in favour of amending the law to allow for cremation say it was part of a new Armenia. However we also pointed out that ‘no one is going to take steps opposed to Armenians ‘national traditions and interests.”

Work needed to be done in relation to the procedures of cremation, burial of the cremated ashes, and allocation of land for burial.

The changes envisage one square meter of free land for burial of ashes. The area could be increased to 6 meters in return for a payment. The changes also envisage a columbarium (a “wall of sorrow”*) for ashes.

Oddly enough it is the final aspect, the columbarium that has caused disquiet as some MPs who believe that columbarium runs counter to Armenian tradition of burial and installation of memorial stones.

*never heard them called that before?!

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buddhist cremation relics

Iconic Buddhist monk’s cremation relics go on display


The Rosemead Buddhist temple in Los Angles is opening its door to the public, displaying a huge collection of relics.

This year the collection has even more artefacts, perhaps the most notable of its new relics from the Venerable Thich Quang Duc. The Buddhist monk who in 1963  in south Vietnam set fire to himself in in protest of over government repression on of Buddhism. This iconic act of self-immolation was captured on camera and made headlines around the world. An act that later became recognised as the turning point in the Buddhist crisis and a significant moment in the collapse of the American supported Diem regime.” The temple describes them and relics; we can take this to mean cremated remains.

The temple’s collection is famous with over ten thousand artefacts many of them are Sharia crystals: which are crystallised remains that from when cremation conditions are right and are considered to be extremely precious. In fact they are considered to have supernatural properties, such as the ability to emanate aromas or reproduce spontaneously (although presumably the last ability only happens when your back is turned)

The temple is even said to have the two teeth and a finger bone of the Buddha himself (nice!) “[These] are sacred religious artefacts highly revered throughout the world,” according to temple spokeswoman Vickie Sprout.

The temple first exhibited to the public in 2013, the collection has grown  through donations from all over the world, including Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Vietnam and Cambodia.



A festival that involves throwing cremation ash at one another

Varanasi, India is famous and unique. A holy Hindu city whose principal business is death, many families take their loved ones to be cremated there, while western eyes may view it as macabre, the locals have a very different take.

Reincarnation is a fundamental part of the Hindu religion so moving from this life to the next doesn’t have the same finality as does in many other parts of the world, there is obviously grieving as loved one will be missed, but it is perhaps considered much more part of the whole life cycle.

This acceptance in a place so closely associated with death become even more pointed when it comes to the festival of Holi and participants can be seen throwing pyre ash at one another or smearing each other’s faces with it (have a look at this news video on the subject

Whilst this approach already seems startling, after reading up on the celebrations there was one other aspect of the festivities that added to ‘other worldliness’ of the whole event, according to various sources in amongst the smoke of the cremations that are going on all around on the seventh night of Navratra (an important lunar festival) the ‘Brides of the city’  (Nagar Vadhu)  or in other words sex workers, offer their prayer and dancing on a makeshift stage to the deity of cremation ghat (a ghat is a place of cremation that has steps leading down to the river Ganges).

Can you image the prostitutes of the Black Country coming together performing a dance and chanting in the grounds of Wolverhampton crematoria, before smearing each other with cremation ash? Sometimes when someone says to me ‘Ou, isn’t it’s a small world?’ I do think ‘Yes, but….’

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