From Delhi to Delhi Road

By Neena Badhwar

We came to Australia in our young years and were the pioneering first Asians that set foot when the immigration doors opened by Australia in the seventies.

Now this same very Indian population is growing old, entering its senior years and is sadly passing away.

Delhi Road in North Ryde is our regular place of visit as friends’, family members’ passes on with their funerals conducted at either Macquarie Park Crematorium or Northern District Cemetery situated there.

Hopefully everyone has made a successful, comfortable and economically better life here. But when it comes to death and last rites as per Hindu tradition, when the desperate and the mourning family want to send away their near and dear ones properly giving them decent last rites and a funeral, one finds families at a loss. Many a times they have shown frustration as proper last rites and rituals can’t be conducted, for one cannot find either the priests or even a place where one can conduct proper Hindu rituals, same dilemma exists even in people of Budhhist, Jain or Islamic faith.

Thanks to Macquarie Park Crematorium as they have constructed a Lotus Pavillion, a precinct to which the government has provided two million dollars, it being devoted specially to the people of Hindu as well of other faiths from the Indian subcontinent. Set in landscaped gardens, the Lotus Pavilion will offer Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh communities a place to carry out pre-cremation ceremonies. It will also be available to the wider community for services of their choice.

Pandit Rami Sivan, from the Australian Council of Hindu Clergy, said the pavilion would be an invaluable asset to Australia’s expanding South Asian Dharma communities. “Since we only cremate our deceased we do not require land for burial, but we find existing chapels are not suitable for our rituals,” Pandit Rami Sivan said. “We believe this is the only pavilion of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere that will allow Hindu priests and family members of the deceased to carry out last rites at their own pace and in the way Hindu scriptures prescribe.” The pavilion has space for 120 people seating, together with additional standing capacity.

The two pundits, Pandit Rami and Pandit Athreiya, who are elated at this great achievement, “There was a great need for a place,” says Pandit Ramchandra, who is also a member on the National Religious Forum and helped set up the Australian Council of Hindu Clergies, “It has been a long journey and our struggle to convince the authorities on this idea that we also need a place where we can conduct proper rituals. Now that there are 400,000 Hindus in Australia, finally we have been able to achieve this pavilion called the Lotus Pavillion at Macquarie Park Cemetery.”

“Many people come to us and talk of frustrating times in India when they go to Prayag or Hardwar to disperse ashes of their loved ones.”

Says Ram Chandra, “Those Mahapatras give such a hard time. A pundit must say ”˜Triptoasmi’ that he is happy with the ”˜pind’ – departed soul, he must fast, whether they do it or not I do not know. They must also pray for three days. Rather it is the opposite as they fight, haggle and blackmail you with rituals not even conducted properly. People have come back very upset with such bad stories.”

“We thought we will create something here itself so that funeral and last rites for Hindus can be conducted in a decent manner.”

“You see, only a qualified pundit is supposed to chant mantras and conduct proper rituals. No one went and convinced the government and luckily this crematorium supported us in our cause. We asked the Hindu Council of Australia but they did not understand what we were talking about. It has been a long fought battle that started in 1988.”

“We have consistently approached temples, but there is politics everywhere. We wanted everyone to be inclusive in this project but there was very little support. It is a fact of life, the ultimate truth being that we all die.”

“We sent invitation to all the organisation but no one sent back an acceptance or even an apology.”

Another member of the community said, “Where are all the Hindus they should have been here today.”

Thanks to Australian Clergy of Hindu Faith and their consistent efforts of these two Pundits who have incessantly canvassed with the authorities, the government, on behalf of the Hindus that the Indian community has now The Lotus Pavillion, an exceptional achievement, a private and a personal place for conducting last rites, with all available facilities – sound system, television, audiovisual system as well as toilets, with its own private entrance.

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