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Breaking Stereotypes, Christian Woman works at Hindu Crematorium in Chennai

As per Hindu rituals, a woman is not really banned from entering a cremation ground but is generally not allowed to

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Hindu Cremation. Photo: Wikipedia

From birth till death, the circle of life is guarded by many rituals of the faith that one believes in. In Christianity, a deceased is buried, in Hinduism, he is cremated and so on. In practicing the final rites of the deceased, it is often not allowed for women to enter the cremation ground or perform any rites. Behind breaking this stereotype, there is the story of the 34-year-old Praveena Soloman who chose to take her career to a crematorium ground in Chennai, as documented by BBC on August 04, 2016.

Solomon assisting the cremation and handing the urn of ashes to a relative. Image copyrights: Nathan G
Solomon assisting the cremation and handing the urn of ashes to a relative. Image source: Nathan G

It was when an organisation named Indian Community Welfare got the contract to revive and run a 120-year-old crematorium that had gradually turned into a dumping ground, and Solomon, who was associated with the above mentioned NGO for 12 years, got the opportunity to work here. A total of 4.5 acres, the ground was reconstructed, security cameras were installed, got clean toilets made as well as protected with boundary walls; it was ensured that it doesn’t turn back to the drinking spot that it earlier was.

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An English graduate from University of Madras and a mother of two, Praveena Soloman started working at Valankadu crematorium ground located in the Anna Nagar in 2014, a very busy place where Soloman is the administrator. She looks after all arrangements before the dead body is readied for the funeral. The entire day of the funeral goes hurriedly, where the body is laid for the procession and a mourner beats with percussion instruments and blows a shell to announce the arrival of the body.

As per Hindu rituals, a woman is not really banned from entering a cremation ground but is generally not allowed to. People justify this with the reason that women have a delicate heart, so they can retain the image of a body burning and often its parts falling off the pyre or even the foul smell of the body. But despite people’s remarks, the death threats, and accusations, Solomon chose to defy the predetermined notions and came and worked here, mentioned the BBC report.

Priest Irushankar Narayanan says he is proud of Solomon. Image copyrights: Nathan G
Priest Irushankar Narayanan says he is proud of Solomon.
Image copyrights: Nathan G

Appointing Solomon as an administrator here was a way to create a peaceful and safe environment for women who could now pay the last tributes to their deceased loved ones, said ICWO chief AJ Hariharan to BBC. It has become more of a trend for women to enter the cremation ground and pay final rituals in the obituary.

Solomon further added that it was emotionally overwhelming, to begin with the cremations. On the first day at her job, she cremated 7 corpses and cried every time with the people, who cried for the departed souls of someone close. The time of crisis was during the Chennai floods, when a total of 246 bodies was cremated, nearly double than the usual number.

prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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  • AJ Krish

    Soloman needs to be appreciated for her strength and courage to continue in this profession despite the death threats.

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Westerners Adopt Indian Practices, Deny Giving Due Credits

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument.

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Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to protect our own heritage and Dharma. Hindu Council Of Australia

By Shashi Holla (WA) and Surinder Jain

Colonial or a white supremacy mind set may be clever enough to adopt Hindu practices but denies giving credit where it is due. Stealing Hindu Intellectual Property, they do not hesitate to rename and repackage so that they can sell it back to India for immense profits. Off course, they will leave no chance to tell Indians to stop their superstitious ways and to adopt the new scientific knowledge which “they” have “invented”.

Following has been already digested or appropriated by West. Some of the Western academics don’t believe that they belong to India.

Yoga Nidra   AS  Lucid Dreaming

Nadi Shodhana AS Alternate Nostrils Breathing

Vipassana  AS Mindfulness.

The latest addition to this list is

Pranamyam AS Cardiac Coherence Breathing

Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress-related disorders.[29] But the latest attempt has taken the appropriation too far. An American magazine “Scientific American” in its article titled “Proper Breathing Brings Better health” termed “Pranayama” as cardiac coherence breathing. (15 January 2019). The article gives us an idea about how West is so sophisticated in stealing knowledge from ancient cultures particularly Hinduism.

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Man doing Yoga. Wikimedia Commons

Prāṇāyāma is mentioned in verse 4.29 of the Bhagavad Gītā.[11] According to Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is, prāṇāyāma is translated to “trance induced by stopping all breathing”, also being made from the two separate Sanskrit words, prāṇa and āyām.[12] Pranayama is the fourth “limb” of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29 in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[14][15] Patanjali, a Hindu Rishi, discusses his specific approach to pranayama in verses 2.49 through 2.51, and devotes verses 2.52 and 2.53 to explaining the benefits of the practice.[16] Many yoga teachers advise that pranayama should be part of an overall practice that includes the other limbs of Patanjali’s Raja Yoga teachings, especially Yama, Niyama, and Asana.[18]

“Pranayama” a department of Yogic science practiced and documented 5000 years back ( even 15,000 years back) by Rishis is not even acknowledged by the author of the article. If one read the article they vaguely suggest that breathing exercises also existed in China, Hindu and in Greek culture.  This is how appropriation of ancient techniques takes place by West.  As Sankrat Sanu an entrepreneur, researcher and writer put it in his tweet “after erasing the origin they claim it as their own invention, attack original traditions as Superstition”.

As famous Indian American Author Rajiv Malhotra summarizes: “The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”. Its time Indians in general and Hindus in particular should be vigilant and should have an academic mind set to respond to such misadventures to  protect our own heritage and Dharma.

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The article standardizes cardiac coherence breathing as Chinese, Hindu, Greek and various traditions as equal origins, and then modern West turns it into science”.  Pixabay

There is an argument by some Hindu liberals thinking “what the problem in it”? They think our knowledge is globalized by West in the same way we consume inventions of the West. But it’s a very naïve argument. West has created an eco system and mechanism in which their knowledge system is Well protected and patented by international norms. Unless West does not give a new name and fits into their framework native wisdom is not recognized in academia and media. Whereas Hindus were generous in sharing their health techniques freely from millennium never thought they will struggle in proving things which belong to them. In fact in a westernized framework of Yoga and other techniques Indian scholars, insiders and practitioners are blatantly ignored. So our own knowledge will be repackaged and exported back to us at an extra price and conditions.

Also Read: Climate Change Will Melt Vast Parts of Himalayas: Study

Many of our practices are being called to be Biofeedback systems. According to WikipediaBiofeedback systems have been known in India and some other countries for millennia. Ancient Hindu practices like yoga and Pranayama (breathing techniques) are essentially biofeedback methods. Many yogis and sadhus have been known to exercise control over their physiological processes. In addition to recent research on Yoga, Paul Brunton, the British writer who travelled extensively in India, has written about many cases he has witnessed. (Hindu Council Of Australia)