Cremation is an ancient ritual where the body of the deceased is burned. It has been a prevalent practice in the countries of South Asia and South East Asia. The practice of cremation is most common in countries like Nepal, Bali, India and Sri Lanka.
From the 19th century onwards, other countries began the practice of cremation as well. Unlike the open-air cremation upon a pyre, practiced primarily in Hindu communities, the practice of cremation was modified in the Western countries with the introduction of a closed furnace. At present it is the norm.
PROS OF CREMATION:
- Cremation is Environment Friendly:
Cremation is considerably environmental friendly than burial. A study by Elisabeth Keijzer (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Research) states the impact of cremation is lesser than organizing a funeral as the carbon emissions from people attending the funeral is more than the emissions from cremation fire.
- Cremation is Pocket Friendly:
Cremation services are cheaper than burial services as it does not require the purchase of a casket. A casket in USA costs approximately 2000 dollars, whereas cremation services cost about 500 dollars. The cost of organizing a funeral is saved when the body is cremated.
- Lesser Burden of Organising:
A cremation is lesser burden to organise than a funeral. In times of mourning and exhaustion, organizing an event can be a difficult task, but choosing the alternative of a funeral is suited to a time of stress. Crematory services include lesser paperwork as well.
- Saves Land:
Cremation saves land. Burial takes up extensive land space and cemetery space, which ends up resulting to even more paperwork and problems during times of mourning. A study from 2013 stated the cemeteries in the UK could run out of space in the next twenty years’ time.
- Use of Formaldehyde:
Coffins use an element called formaldehyde to embalm the wood of the coffin. This keeps the wood strong and gives it a polished look. Unfortunately, when the coffin is buried, this element rubs off over time and slowly seeps into the earth mixing with the groundwater.
- Saves Time:
The process of cremation ensures time is saved by a quick process of disposition of the deceased. A funeral with a burial can take up to days to organise, but a cremation can be completed within a few hours of death. It is easier when in mourning.
- Ashes Serve as Memory:
The ashes from the cremation serve as memory and bring loved ones closer to the deceased person. The act of spreading of ashes, as practiced by the Hindu community is a spiritual method of paying respect to the dead. It serves as a great tribute.
- Saves Cost of Preservation:
When the relatives of the deceased live at a considerable distance and it will take some time for them to come to the resting place of the deceased, cremation serves the option of disposing the body, without having to preserve it, hence saving the cost.
- The State Provides Services:
The State or government performs cremation for those bodies which are not claimed by anyone. This also reflects upon the efficiency of cremating the body of the deceased as it is a method the State too uses to dispose of those bodies which are unidentified.
CONS OF CREMATION:
- Justification of Choice:
In the West, the practice of burial of body is more prominent that the practice of cremation, hence choosing to cremate the body of a loved one without any justification or note from the deceased saying so raises eyebrows. Hence cremating can be a controversial choice.
- Management of Ashes:
The question of management of ashes is a tricky one. The ashes that have to be disposed of cannot be dispersed anywhere as per government regulations in various countries. If caught in the act of disposal in a place not permitted, one could face legal problems.
- Multiple Opinions:
Another problem with cremation is that it could lead to arguments within the family as to where the ashes should be disposed of and how it should be disposed of. There are several methods to dispose of ashes and not all methods suit the temperament of relatives.
- Religious Sentiments:
Cremating the body of the deceased may hurt the religious sentiments of the relatives and loved ones of the deceased. Disposing of the body through the means of cremation instead of the conventional burial of the body (as they practice in the West), could lead to disagreements.
- The Question of Children:
The practice of cremation remains an odd practice in the West. The body of the person buried is a more conventional sight for children, and it may become uneasy for them to take in the experience of a cremation. This problem is serious, often unavoidable.
- Preservation for Open Casket Cremation:
The problem of open casket cremation is another tricky method as it requires the preservation of the body of the deceased. If the timing is not relatively accurate, the problems could lead to an uncomfortable situation. Hence the practice of cremation requires quick disposal.
- Cremation Requires Permission:
In many countries the act of cremation requires the act of seeking permission, which is again a lot of paperwork. Countries in West Asia Eastern Europe have by-laws which dictate the seeking of permission if the deceased is to be cremated. This is for religious purposes.
Cremation is truly a spiritual experience for religious communities like the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc., as it serves the purpose of making a death less traumatic and less exhaustive through its various rituals and customs, but it is an experience of discomfort for several communities in the West, as it might hurt the religious sentiments of the people of the community.
The act of cremation, apart from sentimental problems in the West, also requires quick functioning to ensure the body does not disintegrate and that is something that cannot always be afforded if relatives live at considerable distances.