In Nepal, memorial services for the dead - by radio

September 18th, 2008 - 4:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 18 (IANS) Once the world’s only Hindu kingdom where religion ruled with an iron hand, the new secular republic of Nepal is modernising old traditions with revolutionary zeal. After teleconferencing, tele-medicine and distance-learning, the nation is embarking on a novel project - performing memorial services for the dead by radio.An enterprising private radio station from Birtamod town in eastern Jhapa district has started a new programme from Tuesday, offering Hindu memorial services for its listeners in eastern Nepal as well as nearby Darjeeling town of India.

The Kanchanjangha FM, named after the third largest mountain in the world, is offering a novel service “Samvedana” (Condolences), conducted by a traditional Hindu priest, Toyanath Khanal, who is from Vrindavan in north India.

The programme, which promises to be a hit with Nepalis and Indians of Nepali origin living in eastern Nepal as well as in Indian towns along the border, includes a 15-minute segment “Shradh Bachan”.

The first day that the programme went on air, two families from Darjeeling tuned in to conduct the memorial service for their departed loved ones, the Kantipur daily reported Thursday.

The deed done, late Kulbahadur Khadka’s family rang up the station from Bagmara in Darjeeling to express their gratitude.

By Wednesday, the word had spread and more bereaved families had begun tuning in.

Three more families performed the service for departed members Wednesday, the daily said.

According to Chandra Bhandari, a senior official at the FM station, an older programme run by the station “Purano Chautari” - Platform for the Elderly - has the participation of listeners who are above 80.

After nearly 150 of them expired last year, the station started thinking of a new programme to offer its condolences as well as prayers for the souls of the departed acquaintances to rest in peace.

The programme is especially sought after in Darjeeling where due to the mountainous roads, traditional Hindus have no quick access to Hindu priests.

According to Hindu customs, bereaved families hold a memorial service for departed ones a year after death and thereafter, on special occasions in the following years.

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