Earth, wind and pyre

Charles Cowling

The be-wigged hair-splitters are having a sprightly time of it in the Appeal Court, where Davender Ghai is demanding the right to be burned, when he’s dead, on an open air funeral pyre.

This is a matter of concern not just to those Hindus who want what Baba Ghai wants, but to anyone who wants to be burned on a pyre. There’s nothing exclusively Hindu about a pyre. The Natural Death Centre is right behind Davender Ghai’s appeal, and Rupert Callender has written in support of him:

It is a mistake to see this legal challenge as coming from a minority group seeking a religious right that is alien to us, it is actually part of a wider demand for social change and as the recent excavations at Stonehenge are revealing, a part of our own indigenous cultural heritage. Rituals involving fire for purification, celebration and seasonal marking abound all over this country. The revived Beltane celebrations in Edinburgh are attended by over 12 thousand people. Up Helly Aa, the Viking fire festival in Lerwick in Shetland is the largest such ritual in Europe. The town of Lewes in Sussex has retained an extraordinary and enviable continuation of culture and identity based entirely around the bonfire celebrations of November The 5th, and let us not forget the public outdoor burning of the druid Dr Price in front of a crowd of twenty thousand, whose challenge was influential in legalising cremation in the first place.

In court yesterday the arguments swirled around what constitutes a building. Ramby de Mello, representing Davender Ghai, offered this definition:

“The expression crematorium should mean any building fitted with appliances for the burning of human remains. ‘Building’ is not defined. We say it should be given a broad meaning.”

At close of play yesterday, the mood in the Ghai camp was upbeat. Given their mood at the start of proceedings, this is encouraging. Today should be interesting.

Read the account in the Times here.

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