FLASHBACK - A funeral pyre being prepared at the Caroni Cremation Site, back in May 2021. (Image: SHASTRI BOODAN)

The leader of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has written to the Association of Funeral Professionals requesting the costs associated with using crematorium services at funeral homes in the country, so the Hindu community can lay their dead to rest, while the ban on open pyres remains in effect.

The correspondence, which was signed by Secretary General Vijay Maharaj and shared today with the media, observes that cremation costs can be as low as $10,000 or as high as $50,000. 

The full text of the Maha Sabha correspondence follows…

Re: Disclosure of the costs of indoor crematorium services

As you are aware, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has been entreated by its membership to address the ban on open pyres as the Hindu community has been largely carrying the burden of this particular policy.

As such, we are writing to you as well as many other funeral agencies requesting information which can help us better understand the present financial requirements of indoor cremations.  From our information, there are 31 funeral homes, and we propose to send this letter to all. We do appreciate that not all of the funeral homes will be outfitted with the infrastructure and/or incinerator chamber.  In these instances, we would still appreciate receiving the information as to the services they provide, the procedures undertaken and the associated costs of same.

Until such a time when open pyre/air cremations are once again allowed, the Maha Sabha feels it is necessary to identify areas in which assistance or guidance can be rendered to those of its members who are most affected by this policy, especially those who may be opting for a burial instead of a cremation.  Further, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha intends to consult with and to make representations to certain entities with a view to obtaining some form of bereavement assistance for vulnerable persons/families who have lost relatives to the COVID-19 virus.

It had come to our attention that the cost of an indoor cremation can range from about $10,000 to $15,000.  Recently, however, some estimates have put this cost at between $27,000 to $50,000 per corpse.

For the sake of clarification on these widely varying figures, we would appreciate if you could give us an indication of the following in your own funeral agency, where applicable:

1.   The cost of incinerating one corpse

2.   The daily cost of keeping a corpse

3.   The average length of time a corpse is kept before an available date is found

4.   The calculation of the cost of incinerating a body based on weight

5.   Any other costs related to incineration

In addition, we would like to find out what is the average waiting time for families before they are given the ashes of their loved ones.  (We presume that this will vary amongst funeral homes.)

This is important as the Hindu rituals that are done with the ashes usually take place the day after the cremation.

We appreciate that you are under no obligation to provide the information sought, but we feel confident that you too will see the need to render humanitarian assistance to those who have difficulty burying their dead. 

Unfortunately, we can safely guess that given the ongoing ravages of this pandemic, the death rate is likely to escalate alongside the other difficulties that arise from it.

We thank you and look forward to your urgent response.

Yours sincerely,

Vijay Maharaj
Secretary General (Ag.)
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha