Crowd gathers to see widow perform father-in-law’s last rites

July 29th, 2008 - 4:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Patna, July 29 (IANS) Hundreds of people gathered at a Bihar village to watch a Hindu woman perform the last rites of her father-in-law - still considered a male prerogative in parts of India. Phulmati Devi, a widow in her 40s, performed the last rites of her father-in-law Sagar Das on the banks of the Ganga Monday as a large crowd watched. The rituals were carried out on the river banks near Bachwara in Begusarai district, over 120 km from the state capital here.

Das, 85, a resident of Barivan village in Samastipur district, died after a prolonged illness.

“Hundreds of men and women from neighbouring villages gathered to see Phulmati light her father-in-law’s pyre in the presence of her three daughters and relatives,” said Mahesh Singh, a villager.

Phulmati decided to perform the last rites because there was no male member in the family. After her husband’s death a few years ago, she and her daughters had been living with Das, Singh told IANS over telephone Tuesday.

“It was a cultural shock for many as it is still regarded as a ritual usually done only by male members of the family,” he said.

According to Hindu tradition, only male members conduct the last rites of a deceased relative, but many women are now breaking the religious barrier by performing the rituals.

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