Friday, January 16, 2009
Funeral and Burial rituals will need to change shortly
This week when in Godagama where I currently live there were three funeral houses, and when I came to my agricultural land in Raja Ela, Hingurakgoda there were two and yesterday when I went to Ratmale where I am building my home, there was a further one in the adjoining village of Rotewewa.
All these have a few things in common, The local village funeral committee ‘marandara samithiya’ takes charge of the arrangements providing the temporary shed to house the attendees, arranges for refreshments, puts up the signs and notices in appropriate locations to guide those coming to pay their respects to the deceased and of putting up a row of flags from the funeral house to the village cemetery for burial. It is burial, which is still common in the villages as they do not directly have access to crematoriums and funeral pyres are an expensive option only for the relatively wealthy. The state is in the process of building crematoriums in places where they see an acute need for them as burial space is becoming limited and in future will be the commonest form of disposing of the remains.
It is almost universal to have an almsgiving on the 7th day and another on the 3rd month of remembrance with a Buddhist priest coming to perform certain rights as well as give a sermon on behalf of the deceased. This is usually followed by refreshments or a meal, which is common in most places. A collective effort at food preparation is made with quite a spread of food, and I don’t hesitate to note that the specially prepared meal is a draw to attract most people from the neighborhood. I have been to many and a fairly expensive spread is prepared as compared with the fairly standard ‘mala bath’ which is given after the burial to those who come to the house.
The point I am trying to make is, in future there will be funerals on a regular basis, which will make attendance a big problem for people and not practical. So some of these traditions will have to change just as they have changed to the current system from historical traditions, some of which were more elaborate and some less depending on the circumstances peculiar to the area, people’s economic situations, and such like. We must remember that traditions also change and are not fixed in stone. We must be open to change that makes these rituals practical and on a point where it is considered expected for local and sometimes national politicians to attend, a serious change of attitude is required if we are to expect more productivity from our elected officials to perform rather than spend time and expense at funerals.