Respecting the dead

Opinion | Malaysia | 30 Aug 2016 Asia Samachar |

COMMENTBy Gursharan Singh

“We have not really been kind to our Pavan Guru, Pani Pita, Mata Dharat Mahat.'”

I am in total agreement with the views expressed in the above comments by Sardar Dhan Singh.

I have been objecting for over 15 years to the cremation method using firewood and other rituals — pouring of ghee, sending of flowers/wreaths, covering the body with kambals/chaddars — to name a few. I have been even been scolded by some elderly and those who want the traditional methods of cremation to be followed as a tradition.

The traditional method followers seem to forget that cremation by gas/electricity is the common method in many countries. Even their own family members and friends who have migrated to countries like Singapore have to use the gas/electricity cremation method as it is mandatory in many countries, where open burning is banned by law.

In the case of the Loke Yew Road Crematorium in Kuala Lumpur, there is a place for Sikhs/Hindus and adjacent to it for South Indians. Jointly the land area is not only large but also strategically located. It has great commercial value.

SEE ALSO: Funerals and their Enviromental Impact

If the Management Committees of these two areas can be co-operate, then the lands can be used to construct a crematorium with about eight to ten burners with each party managing for four to five burners each. The rest of the land can be used for a hall for prayers, parking-utilities and modern facilities with the whole area being landscaped.

The land facing the main road can be developed with commercial building which can provide revenue for proper upkeep of the crematorium and its facilities.

The above suggestion may be just wishful thinking. It is doubtful if both land owners will be interested to co-operate for the common good as even the Sanggat community members may not be able to come to a unanimous decision.

This is the first time I am putting this in writing for information of the Sanggat with the hope that the leaders may have a change of mindset.

Malaysian Gurdwara Council (MGC) and the Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) leaders should consider it. People must change with the times. This proposal may also apply to some of our Gurdwaras which are rarely used.

As regards the ‘waste’ of ghee, Srd Dhan has commented. As regards the practice of putting kambals/chaddars which used to be abandoned, the SNSM had started collecting them to donate them to victims of natural disasters.

However, the thousands of RM are still ‘wasted’ on wreaths/flowers as they are abandoned and not of any use except. It has been observed that they are collected after people have left the place. I understand that the collected wreaths/flowers are then sold to wreath/flower sellers who then re-sell them to unsuspecting buyers who are unable to verify whether these are new or re-cycled.

Later the family of the deceased also ‘offer’ bedding and utensils to Gurdwaras where the Bhog is finalised. This again is an out of date practice as the Gurdwaras do not need them. It would be better if the families were to ‘offer’ equivalent in cash in lieu of the bedding/utensils as the cash can assist the Gurdwaras to finance their activities.

Disposing the Ash

On the disposal of ashes, I have periodically objected to going any where as it is my view that it is quite proper to throw the ashes in any running water.

Our Sikh leaders should take the lead and provide guidelines to effect the change.

But I have little faith in the ‘old guard’ who may not even consider it for fear of offending some hardliners as I have experienced during my conversations on this and other aspects related to death-funerals-paths-customs-etc.

SEE ALSO: One pail at a time – HARKIREN

Has anyone noticed how the workers in crematoriums treat the ashes? As far as they are concerned it is just ashes and not given any respect though the family members who go to collect the ‘phuls’ [flowers] wash the remains in milk and treat with respect until the time they are put in water at sea side or rivers.

Some even take them to India or other places perceived as holy or as wished by the deceased.

Right Respect

Respect to the dear departed should be shown when they are alive and not when they have gone to swarag [or any other place] as is normally mentioned in the final Ardaas.

Sanggat and its leaders should change their mindset in keeping up with the times.

Guru Nanak Ji traveled the world by walking but to-day our raagis-kathakars-religious leaders use the planes and air-conditioned vehicles for travel. Further some claim to be more religious when they sit on the floor for langgar and forget that Guru Ji emphasised equality and thus if the Sanggat in most Gurdwaras sit on benches/chairs during langgar then why should their be any objection from any one.

When I raised this matter with some ‘sant’, his ‘chelaas’ took offense and scolded me.

Gursharan Singh, C.M.I.I.A., a retired audit officer from the Malaysian civil service, is also a trainer


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  1. I fully agree with the above writer.
    Ashes should be only body Ashes and can be disposed in air, water or soil.
    Every iota goes back to Mother Earth ? As what is available.
    Last respect prayers should be done Once only.. Annual report leads to believe in tomb. which is against Sikhism.
    Application of ghee was to assist in the open ?
    Flowers, kambles wreath etc rituals & superstitions which has no standing in Guru Granth Sahib. ?