The UK government has unveiled plans for a series of measures to expand provisions around crematoria to meet long-standing demands of Britain's Hindu and other communities who believe in cremating their dead as per religious rites.
In response to a consultation conducted back in 2016, the UK's Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) revealed Monday that the majority of respondents (28.1 per cent) were from Britain's Hindu communities, particularly in north and west London as well as the city of Leicester, who had highlighted specific faith requirements during cremations.
"Most respondents highlighted that crematoria struggle to accommodate the large numbers of mourners present at Hindu, Sikh and Jain funerals," the MHCLG review noted.
"Other respondents said that there is insufficient time allowed for the service or to administer the last rites, prayers or other rituals such as hand-washing after the cremation. To allow for longer funeral services, respondents from the Hindu, Sikh and Jain faiths reported that they often book two service slots but that this increased the costs," it added.
As part of a package of new measures, UK Faith Minister Lord Nick Bourne said that such concerns would be addressed as cremations become more common in Britain.
"This package of measures will make sure that local authorities and providers offer the appropriate facilities that reflect the communities they serve," Bourne said, adding that he has written to local authorities to encourage appropriate staff training to understand different faith requirements.
The measures have been widely welcomed by British Hindu community groups, who have been lobbying for better provisions around cremations for many years.
"For Hindus, Jains and Sikhs cremation of the body with the right and proper ceremonial prayers is of utmost importance, to satisfy our belief in the soul's journey to heaven and then at the appropriate time its reincarnation into another body," said Anil Bhanot, founding-member of Hindu Council UK.
"The time slots at crematoria definitely need to be extended to accommodate larger ceremonies, in extended chapels to seat larger congregations and with water facilities to wash as a minimum. Ponds and streams running through would be an added advantage for the ashes immersing ceremonies," he said.
The government's measures include a consultation to revise the UK's national guidance on the siting and design of crematoria, and an offer of support to community groups interested in operating their own crematoria.
Ishwar Tailor, vice-president, Gujarat Hindu Society, said: "It is an important step towards raising awareness about the community's needs and also for the community to be aware of what is available to them".
Official records show that cremations are becoming more and more common across Britain, representing over 77.05 per cent of all deaths in the country.
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