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No graves, Mumbai Christians go for cremation

Apr 02, 2010 10:47 AM IST India India

Mumbai: As Christians in Mumbai gear up for their Easter celebration on Sunday, there's a look at a problem that's plaguing the community.

More and more Christians are opting for the Hindu tradition of cremation instead of burial because there are just not enough cemeteries anymore in the city.

It is often said that all the land a man really needs is six feet, but these days in Mumbai that's hard to come by.

For the Christian community, finding a gravesite has become too big a challenge and obituary columns in the newspapers are pointing to a quiet revolution taking place - cremation.

Father Joe D'Souza, a parish priest at the St. Ignatius Church, has surprised many by deciding on cremation for himself, instead of burial.

"The Church just built churches, by the time they thought about the graves, all the land was taken up by residential areas," he says.

The reality of the space crunch has forced the Mumbai Archdiocese to officially change its stand.

"The Church used to say cremation was a form of disrespect to the body. But now as long a person gives a written undertaking he means no disrespect, we allow it," says Archdiocese of Mumbai Spokesperson Father Anthony.

The Pope though hasn't come out with an official statement on this taboo topic.

But with barely enough room for the living in Mumbai, the dead are facing the brunt of the space crunch.

The gravesite at the Orlem Church in Malad, is already full and no new burials have taken place for the past few months.

In fact in the huge stretch of the western suburbs, from Andheri to Kandivli, there is not a single new church grave available.

Christians in these areas often have to resort to common municipal graves and many find cremation simply more convenient.

But for some devout, it's a bitter pill to swallow.

"It goes against tradition, I don't agree with this," says one.

"I don't like the way these things are going," adds another.

'Ashes to ashes' or 'dust to dust' - it's clearly a tough choice for the community.