Victorian Hindus funeral rites

Although Victorian Hindus (Indians) can be traced as far back as 1796 in Australia, they are so willing to ‘fit in’ by nature that the community has been making adjustments not only with their social and cultural beliefs but also with religious rights and rituals for more than 200 years.

The religious cost for the family and loved ones when someone passes away in the community, has been huge because of the way cremations happen in Victoria. The religious rituals based on the Hindu belief system not being followed results in the departed soul not finding the route to salvation, until their family travel back home to perform the right religious rituals and poojas for the soul to rest in peace; and the family finding peace with their loss of the loved one.

But that may be about to change, soon.

A campaign is being led by FESKOVA Australia Inc., a body constituted mainly for Hindu funeral rights to bring about the changes to accommodate Hindu practices to cremate their loved ones in Victoria.

FESKOVA also continues to raise Sanatani religious rituals awareness. It organised Top20 Bhajan Mahamelan in July 2022 July. The event was graced by Ross Spence.

Dr Ardimulam Pillay (MRP) FESKOVA’s National President explains the problem the families face when they have to cremate a loved one:

“The family can only offer prayers as per Hindu culture at our homes, and then the body is taken to the crematorium but incinerated by non-Hindus or non-Sanatanis.

“It is not acceptable that not only it is not the son or a designated family member but not even a Sanatani Hindu who undertakes the “Agni kriya” or the “pressing of the button” at the crematorium.

“Hindu custom demands that “mukhagni” is conducted by the son of the deceased or a designated family member in front of at least 15 immediate family members.”

Dr Pillay and his team FESKOVA, has been working to correct Hindu cremation rites for Victorian Hindus, and has made presentations to the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (GMCT, controller of crematoriums) to accommodate for Hindu religious requirements.

“FESKOVA’s proposal was received warmly and they listened to all our requirements,” Dr Pillay told Bharat Times.

Dr Pillay believes the GMCT showed willingness “to accommodate our requirements, where possible, keeping in mind the construction and safety requirements at crematoriums.”

Hindu Sanatani funeral rituals are already being undertaken in Adelaide and Sydney.

Sydney Hindu residents can undertake proper funeral rituals at the riverside Satyam Ghat for Asthi Visarjan and full Saravana rituals.

According to the ‘letter of support’ written by Victorian Health Minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, in Victoria, “all cemetery trusts must consider the cultural and religious values of the community when exercising their functions”. She also wrote that “Trusts also have a duty of care to the public within cemetery grounds and a responsibility for the health and safety of cemetery workers”.

According to Dr Pillay, the GMCT management will now, in case of Victorian Hindus, allow the deceased’s family to collect ‘ashes’ of the deceased before 10am next morning, so the Asthi Visarjan can be conducted before 12noon, as is customary in Hinduism.

Also, according to Dr Pillay, the Fawkner Crematorium may soon start the process to accommodate Hindu rituals and customs for cremation, which may include the incinerator button being pressed by the deceased’s son or a designated family member. The crematorium is also expected to provide ‘havan’ (a small, controlled, holy, purifying and religious fire) facilities, alongside other changes being considered.

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