The global pandemic has had many unforeseen consequences. There is a significant ash related one: the amount of Hindu and Sikhs that have adopted rivers in the UK to carry out the final funeral rites of having ashes immersed in water.
Historically many families with origins in the sub-contentment would make the trip back to India for the ashes puja (ceremony), most commonly to Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges if they were Hindu or to Kiratpur Sahib in the Punjab, the location of the Gurdwara Patal Puri where Sikhs take ashes of their loved ones for the ceremony.
At the start of Covid lockdown when travel became difficult families took the pragmatic decision to use rivers here particularly the Thames, the Seven, the Avon and the Soar for the ceremony, as the time allowed after the funeral for the ceremony to be conducted is fairly short and if the family were particularly religious then this would be their only option.
Then as lockdown started to ease in the UK in the spring, the virus took hold in India and mutated into the highly infectious delta variant preventing travel in the foreseeable future.
The question is when thing return to ‘normal’ will families revert to returning to India for their ashes ceremony? I think some will: obviously either those with a particularly strong bond through family or religion. However, I have spoken to many families over the course of the pandemic and the repeated phrase is that scattering here in the UK is the ‘new normal’ I suspect that the bonds with India will be more elastic as time goes by but this a gradual process with step changes between generations and practises within diaspora evolve. And the ashes ceremony may well be one to shift permanently.
As one lady explained “Water is universal: it is all connected”. The good news families are well catered for here with a large choice of destinations to suit everyone, so should familes choose the UK then they should have a look at the boats available: Boats on Map