Hindus seek waterway for cremation rituals in Canada
Hindus in Ontario have suggested the Niagara River as a possible site for cremation.india Updated: Apr 12, 2007 13:22 IST
Hindus in Ontario have sought a designated waterway for scattering the ashes of the dead, an important Hindu cremation ritual, and have suggested the Niagara River as a possible site.
The search for a designated site began when a growing number of Hindus started placing ashes, leaves and flowers in different Canadian waterways raising environmental concerns.
"Currently, people are depositing the ashes in bodies of water, in Lake Ontario and other places, but they are doing it in a very unceremonious manner - with fears in their minds that they may be doing something wrong," said Roopnath Sharma, president of the United Hindu Federation
Sharma, who is also a priest at the Shri Ram temple in Mississauga, has been spearheading the designated river project for the past few years.
He has suggested that the Niagara River be used for the purpose because of its strong currents, the National Post reported.
Last month, concerns were raised that the ritual was leaving behind an unsightly mess that was hazardous to the environment.
In many cases people put their offerings into plastic bags and dropped them into rivers.
A Hindu community leader of Greater Toronto Area (GTA) had even published a brochure to tell Hindus how to continue the rituals and respect the environment at the same time.
"Designating a river does nothing to limit the access of the public to the body of water, but rather ensures a standardised approach to the burial practice, said Ron Banerjee, director of public relations with the Hindu Conference of Canada.
Sharma insisted that this was not just a local concern: "This is a Canada issue.
Our objective is to establish some kind of a precedent here and then, of course, template this across the country."
Sharma along with Gerry Phillips, Ontario's minister of government services, is trying to identify appropriate waterways with strong currents and easy access for members of the Hindu community so that they continue to practice the ancient ritual.
According to the 2001 census, Canada is home to almost 300,000 Hindus, including more than 200,000 in Ontario.
A charity organisation in Britain recently won the first step in its fight to make Hindu open air funeral pyres legal in Britain. A court gave its permission to test the law by a high court judge.