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River Funerals In High Demand

River Funerals In High Demand

Author: Dan Martin
Publication: Leicester Mercury
Date: March 4, 2006
URL: http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=132935&command=displayContent&sourceNode=132702&contentPK=14124463&folderPk=77465

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More than 30 funerals a week are being carried out on the River Soar after it was blessed with water from the sacred Ganges.

Families from America, Italy, Germany and France are now coming to Barrow-upon-Soar for the ritual scattering of ashes of loved ones.

The practice is traditional for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains who are using the Soar as an alternative to the Ganges in India.

Community leaders have now called for a temple or shrine on the banks of the river.

Frank Reeves, of Barrow Boating, has a special funeral boat to carry out the services.

It is decorated with pictures of the Indian gods, such as Lord Ganesh, traditional religious colours and has a sound system to play appropriate funeral music.

He said: "The interest has been incredible. In our busiest weeks, we are doing up to 30 services and we are getting a lot of international interest.

"The special boat just seemed like a natural idea to improve the experience for the families.

"We can get a funeral party of 12 on and we can make sure it looks exactly as the family want it. We have a few elephant models as they are sacred animals. It's really up to the individual families.

"We've talked with the priests who come for the funerals and they have told us what is appropriate."

Mr Reeves said he is getting more and more inquiries from Christian families looking to hold a river funeral.

Charnwood borough councillor Amrat Bava, of Loughborough, said: "In Hinduism, many people have a last wish to have their ashes scattered in the holy rivers in India but that is not always possible, so I am not surprised he is doing well.

"What is really important is that flowing water is used, which takes people to the ocean. Many Hindus consider all flowing water to be connected.

"I think this is popular because it has been properly sanctioned by the water authorities."

Vijay Lambachia, secretary of Loughborough's Shree Ram Krishna Temple, said: "In India, many of the crematoria are on the side of the rivers so ashes can be directly scattered. I would perhaps like to see a small temple or shrine on the banks of the Soar so we could do that here. If we could find the land it is something I would think the Hindu community would pay for."

The idea of scattering ashes in the Soar caused controversy when it was first suggested with critics claiming it could pollute the waters.

The practice was investigated by the Environment Agency which concluded it was safe, provided only organic material entered the waterway.


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