As envisioned by the Mahaswami
of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham
in his discourse on Anatha Pretha Kainkarya
(excerpts from Raa. Ganapathi's "Voice of the Lord" volume - 3)
"When we are related, we perform the last rites somehow or the other.
There may be flaws in how we do. But we do not totally avoid doing
it. Even when we stop doing Amavasya tharpanam, srardam and all
that, even atheist Hindus, following their culture, do not fail
to do the pretha samskaras (final rites) to the deceased, cremate
All right, what about those who do not have any relatives? What
happens to their body, the machine created by God? Sastras declare
that the society has to organize the last rites for such people.
It is painful state of affairs among Hindus in this regard.
Even though now things are organized here and there after my repeated
appeals, this is not enough. Previously I used to be very upset.
Then, when an orphan Hindu died in a hospital or in the middle of
the road, there was no arrangement to perform any last rite for
him. Even now it is so in many places. Hospitals do a postmortem,
just for the sake of formality and bury the bodies or the municipality
or panchayat bury the body. It is a sin, a flaw to the society when
it fails to do the last rites according to the codes prescribed
Other religious organizations have made proper arrangement in this
matter. So they are not affected by the sin of not offering the
dead body to God according to their religious code of discipline.
Flaw in Hindu society
Hindu society, which has no binding of any sort alone, is being affected
by this great sin. Unlike other powerful religious organisations,
who is there for our Hindu society? What is the use of my being
a Guru and running an establishment with all your money? I am unable
to make arrangements for a Hindu orphan corpse to be cremated according
to Hindu sastras. But because I am holding the position of a Guru,
I am aware that I have more responsibility towards this. All I can
do is to really feel sad about the state of affairs of Hindu society.
I can talk to the best of my ability, to those of you whom I think
will care about what I say.
When you commit a sin and if I do not correct you, it automatically
goes to me when I do not correct you. When you prostrate to me,
you are also giving me the responsibility of removing your sins.
Leave alone the subject of ‘orphan corpse’. Hindu society itself
is an orphan. Now it has become my prime responsibility to consecrate
our society and enliven it.
I had asked for an organization -’jeevatma kainkarya sangam’ (a
Hindu organization for performing services to people) to be started
in each and every place. It has been started in many places. It
is functioning very well in Kumbakonam especially. This noble service
has taken a deep root to the extent that the hospital and municipality
authorities themselves contact this organization whenever there
is an orphan body to be disposed.
Even if there is no separate organization for this, the prayer groups
or the singers group, along with their weekly and general services
should include cremation of orphan bodies as part of their services.
Instead of treating this as just another service, they should give
this a high priority understanding the importance and greatness
of this service.
This is Aswamedha
When I was talking about service to others, I asked you if it is
possible for all of us to perform Aswamedha? Then I asked why should
we do Aswamedha? ‘Hayametha samarchitha’. This is one of
Mother's names - ‘One who is worshipped by Aswamedha’.
I gave you the answer that Aswamedha is done to obtain Her total
Grace. But, today in this age of kali, it is impossible to perform
an aswamedha, which prescribes rigorous disciplinary measures. I
asked you what could be done for this. Sastras proclaim that any
other service to humanity is equal to performing aswamedha. I also
told you that the complete grace of Mother Goddess could be obtained
by doing such a service.
Then I was talking about various services. But I have not mentioned
about any service that can give the result equivalent to that of
aswamedha. Cremating an orphan body is the highest of such services.
It is said in sastras “Anatha pretha samskarath aswamedha phalam
labeth”. While doing this service to another person (para -
upakara) we not only negate our sin but also gain result.
A doctor mentioned, there is an advantage in acquiring unclaimed
bodies. We do a post-mortem and utilize the parts of the body for
the purpose of experiments. These parts are helpful aids in teaching
anatomy in medical colleges and medical exhibitions. If they
are taken away by your service organizations, how can medical science
improve? I replied that may be doctors should donate their bodies
for such postmortem. Even if this is faulty according to sastras,
we can assume that the willingness of this voluntary sacrifice counteracts
the ill effect. I have said earlier that one can counter balance
the ill effects of his doings in his profession by some way of sacrifice
in the same profession. This is one step above all, where one not
only helps others with his profession while living, but also gives
himself to his own learning after dying.
Other religious organizations make sure that the orphan bodies of
their community are disposed according to their religion. By making
proper arrangements, we must avoid the shame that Hindu orphan bodies
alone are buried by the government servants without any rites".
In conclusion, we can do no better than focus the attention of the
public on the sayings of the Kanchi Mahaswami, decades ago on the
significance and importance of this activity amidst us.