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Woman defies custom, performs husband's last rites

Lucknow, August 22

Nearly 1,500 residents of a village in Uttar Pradesh stood by a woman, who in a rare departure from traditional Hindu custom, performed the last rites of her husband.

Mangri, 55, conducted the last rites, which is still a taboo for women, in the Bhagwatpur village in Kushinagar district, some 300 km from the state capital, Friday.

"We were taken by surprise when we learnt that Mangri would conduct the last rites of her 62-year-old husband Nanhe," Awadesh Mall, a resident of Bhagwatpur, told IANS over telephone.

"As the news spread in the village, a large number of residents gathered along the Badi Gandak river near which the rites were carried out as per the vedic tradition," he added.

According to locals, Nanhe, who was farmer, died of protracted illness early Friday and his cremation was performed later in the day.

"When we were thinking about who would perform Nanhe's last rites as there was no male member in his family, Mangri came forward and expressed her desire to carry out the last rites," said Suresh Baiswar, a primary school teacher in the village.

"Initially, there was some resistance from the elderly residents of the village. However, later they got convinced after taking into account her plight and helpnessness," he added.

The residents of Bhagwatpur village even raised funds for the last rites.

"Living in abject poverty, Mangri did not have enough money for the last rites. Considering the fact, we contributed funds for the last rites after which Mangri lit the pyre of her husband,'' said Baiswar.

In India, it is generally the men - sons, nephews or brothers - who perform the last rites. But conventions are being increasingly broken and women are often coming forward to carry out these ceremonies in the absence of male progenies.


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