Delhi’s Lingayat community in search of a burial ground in city

Currently, the SDMC has 37 Hindu cremation grounds and four Muslim burial sites, most of which are in Punjabi Bagh, Green Park, Dakshinpuri, Madanpur Khadar and Mongolpuri. Besides, there is one Christian cemetery in Dwarka.
A priest at a Lingayat Community Temple in Noida. The Lingayats do not cremate the dead. Instead, the departed are buried in deep pits in a sitting, meditative position.(Sunil Ghosh/HT Photo)
A priest at a Lingayat Community Temple in Noida. The Lingayats do not cremate the dead. Instead, the departed are buried in deep pits in a sitting, meditative position.(Sunil Ghosh/HT Photo)
Published on Mar 17, 2019 05:53 AM IST
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New Delhi | ByBaishali Adak

Around 2000-odd members of the ‘Veerashaiva Lingayat’ community from Karnataka — who are settled in the national capital — are looking for burial grounds to lay to rest their dead.

Recently, their representatives approached the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), seeking space for a ‘rudra bhoomi’ or adult Hindu burial ground. Most people from the community reside in Dwarka, Saket and Janakpuri.

Besides, a sizeable student population from the community keeps moving to Delhi to study for civil services examination.

“Unlike Hindus, we Lingayats — ardent Shiva devotees and followers of the 12th century saint Basavanna — do not cremate our dead. Instead, the departed are buried in deep pits in a sitting, meditative position with a linga (symbol of Shiva) in the right hand,” said Ashok Kalloor, president of Basava International Centre, a cultural group of the community. Owing to a lack of dedicated burial grounds in the national capital, Delhi-based Lingayats currently transport bodies of their dead family members all the way to Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, where rudra bhoomis exist.

“The families, who are already in pain, do not just incur a huge cost — of up to R1.5 lakh for airlifting — but doing extensive preparations for it also take a toll on them. Embalming of the corpses is done only at a few hospitals such as AIIMS and Safdarjung. Further, they have to be packed in special coffins and applications must be made to the airlines to carry the bodies in their cargo,” Kalloor explained.

However, he maintained, often, the bodies begin to decompose by the time they are transported from the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport to Bengaluru, and by road, reach a village or town, where there are Lingayat burial grounds.

“While most Lingayats in Delhi are wealthy, not all can afford this,” said Shobha Patil Koliwad, a community member who stays in Dwarka. “Over the past few years, we have often pooled in money for poor Lingayats to send bodies of their relatives to Karnataka. Under duress, some have gotten their dead cremated at Lodhi Road crematorium though our scriptures strictly prohibit it,” she said.

GR Choudhary, additional municipal health officer, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, said they have a few infant burial grounds under their jurisdiction as children under one year of age in the Hindu religion are not cremated on death. However, he said, this request is “unique”. “We have never had such a proposal coming in before.”

Currently, the SDMC has 37 Hindu cremation grounds and four Muslim burial sites, most of which are in Punjabi Bagh, Green Park, Dakshinpuri, Madanpur Khadar and Mongolpuri. Besides, there is one Christian cemetery in Dwarka.

“We are aware of the request that has come in from the Lingayat community. Our only problem sanctioning it right now is the model code of conduct for the upcoming Lok Sabha election is in force. Otherwise, we have already earmarked a ground for them in Dwarka Sector 24,” said Shikha Rai, standing committee chairperson, SDMC.

The Lingayats first started migrating to north India as priests at the Jyotirlingas or the four prominent Shiva temples — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Kashi and Ujjain. “This is as per 7th century strictures from Adi Shankaracharya,” said Shreekant Choukimath, another member of the community who is an engineer with good knowledge on the history of the community.

“Thereafter, many Lingayats who are lawyers shifted to Delhi after the Supreme Court was established in 1950 and professors from the community came to JNU after it was built in 1970,” he said.

They have a cultural centre at Saket called Suttur Matt and a school called Basava International in Dwarka.

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