LEADING Hindu saints, religious and community leaders, MPs and peers took part in a ground-breaking ceremony of Europe’s first purpose-built Hindu crematorium in Buckinghamshire last Friday (15).
AUM will be the first dedicated crematorium for the Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities in England after the Anoopam Mission UK received planning decision in December last year to build a state-of-the-art crematorium on its grounds in Denham. The Planning Inspectorate acknowledged the special circumstances which justify construction of the building on green belt land and noted that existing crematoria in the area do not adequately cater for all Hindu rites.
More than 150 guests gathered last Friday at the Anoopam Mission in Denham, northwest London, where prayers and the chanting of Vedic hymns marked the ceremony.
Guruhari Sahebji, the spiritual head of Anoopam Mission, said, “The purpose-built crematorium is something the Hindu community has long tried for and finally this vision will come to fruition.
“It is for the community, and it will happen with the support of the entire community. Let us aim to complete this project in an optimal time-frame, for the benefit of the community, so that they may be able to peacefully conduct the last rites, which in the Hindu tradition are the most important ordination for their loved ones who leave their physical body.”
The idea for the crematorium was initiated by Lord Dolar Popat and was backed by Lord Jitesh Gadhia, with many Asian business leaders supporting the project.
Although both peers were not present at last Friday’s ceremony, they sent their best wishes to the organisers. The ceremony was presided over by Sadguru Param Pujya Ashwindada as the Yajman and was conducted by Sadhu Manojdasji.
The entire Vedic ritual was explained in English for the benefit of the guests. Eleven distinguished individuals from the Hindu community performed the rites. The significance of the ceremony was explained by Sadhu Manojdasji, who said, “The earth is the giver of life. She nourishes and sustains, and therefore Hindu culture views her as Mother.
“Before embarking on any project, where we need to excavate into Mother Earth, we ask her permission, offer prayers and ask for forgiveness for any inconvenience that may be inflicted to the biodiversity in the process, while praying for their spiritual liberation and making the resolve to restore it.”
Labour MPs Barry Gardiner, Virendra Sharma, Gareth Thomas and Navendu Mishra attended the ceremony, as did Peter Mason (Ealing Council leader), Rajesh Agrawal (deputy mayor, business, London and chair of the Labour Friends of India), the chairperson and members of the London Assembly.
Businessmen Dinesh Dhamija, Pradeep Dhamecha and Satish Chatwani were also present on the occasion, along with community leaders Kanteshbhai Popat, Sanjay Jagtiya, Hiteshbhai Bharkhada, Jitubhai Patel, Miteshbhai Vekaria and Pragneshbhai Patel.
MP Sharma, whose constituency has a big population of Hindus and Sikhs, said, “For many years, even when I was a councillor in the 1980s before becoming an MP, I called for Hindu rights for proper cremation to be observed and protected.
“To be present at this groundbreaking event was a real honour and I’m delighted that we will see this project come to fruition for everyone. This is a dream come true for the community.”
Harrow West MP Thomas said, “When building work is finally completed this crematorium will sit in very beautiful and appropriate surroundings and will be testimony to the strength, determination and persistence of some remarkable people in these great faith communities.”
Gardiner, who represents Brent North said the crematorium “will serve the Hindu, Jain and Sikh communities in the UK, and those who wish to have a dharmic last funeral rites”. QC Peter Goatley and planning consultant, Gerald Sweeney, who assisted in the planning permission and appeal process for the AUM crematorium were honoured at the event.
Construction and completion of the project is expected to take between a year and 18 months. The design of the crematorium building and associated facilities has been tailored to meet the needs of the Hindu community.
Under the proposal, there will be two waiting rooms, two private ritual rooms for pre-ceremony rituals, a large ceremony hall and a crematory hall. There is also a separate canteen building, including dining seating and showering facilities. This would enable ritual washing and communal eating following a cremation. Ample car park space will also be included.
Lord Gadhia said previously, “This is a landmark moment for the Hindu community in the UK. Many of us have actively campaigned for a purpose-built Hindu crematorium to meet the needs of our community and the provision of better facilities sensitive to our cultural and social requirements.
“The welcome judgment from the planning inspector recognises the very special circumstances that exist in meeting the unfulfilled needs of the Hindu community and I hope will enable other facilities to be considered in areas of high Hindu, Sikh and Jain population.”