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Funerals becoming ‘an opportunity to flaunt wealth’: South African Hindu Maha Sabha

The South African Hindu Maha Sabha (SAHMS) has said funeral is a time to honour the departed with “Sanskaar and discipline” and should not be used as “an opportunity to flaunt wealth”.

“In Hindu tradition, a funeral should not be an ostentatious celebration. It is a time to honour the departed with ‘Sanskaar’ and discipline. It is a time to focus on an appeal to the lord for salvation for the deceased. Salvation is only possible if there is detachment from material things,” said Ashwin Trikamjee, president, SAHMS.

He said the funerals had now become “nothing but an opportunity to flaunt wealth” with bagpipes and Bentley cars at the crematorium and people dressed in “English colonial-styled suits instead of the all-white cotton kurta”.

The SAHMS had also received complaints from members of the community about such funerals, Trikamjee said.

One of the complainants said the crematorium were being turned into “a place of noise and excess” with bagpipes, drapes and red carpets “to make more money”.

Another complainant said a crematorium should always remain a place of “peace, sanctity and solemn reflection” and anything that compromises this “should be disallowed”.

Citing several Hindu scriptures for funerals and cremations to be simple, Trikamjee said the trend among some other South African communities of organising extravagant funerals was also “creeping into the South African Hindu community”.

“Funerals, like weddings, have become occasions for the ostentatious flaunting of wealth amongst some of the Hindu elite. In some cases, the deceased were never treated to luxuries when alive” Trikamjee said.

He said such funerals, according to undertakers, could cost as much as $5,400, with families of the deceased sometimes pooling their meagre resources in an attempt to outdo other funerals.

Trikamjee said this often left the poor and destitute struggling to bury their deceased family members because attention would be given to those who could pay for such services.

“More people are made to feel inadequate for simple economic reasons. Our people are soon going to feel that funerals are unaffordable,” he said.