Riverside site to disperse funeral ashes in Wales for Hindus, Sikhs result of years of hard work

Riverside site to disperse funeral ashes in Wales for Hindus, Sikhs result of years of hard work

A new approved site where Britain's Hindu and Sikh communities can scatter the ashes of their loved ones after religious funeral rites is now operational by the River Taff in Wales.

The Antim Sanskar Group Wales (ASGW) dedicated its efforts on a fundraising drive since the Llandaff Rowing Club in Cardiff got the go-ahead a few years ago and marked its formal opening over the weekend with First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured).

It has led the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB), which has lobbied the UK government on this issue over the years, to initiate a collation process of all such sites available across the United Kingdom for ease of access for the British Indian community. HFB President Trupti Patel invited local community groups to write in to administrator@hfb.org.uk for this purpose.

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Here, in an interview with iGlobal, ASGW Chair Vimla Patel reflects upon the new landmark in Wales, which is already attracting enquiries from different parts of the UK.

Q

What is the scale of the community impact of this project?

A

There are more than three generations of Hindus and Sikhs settled here. The first generation of our community tended to take the ashes back to their motherland, India.

However, the later generations, born or having lived in the UK most of their lives, prefer to scatter the ashes of their loved ones in Wales, with respect and dignity.

After many years of hard work, we will at last have an established and sanctified area where families can come and disperse the funeral ashes of their loved ones.

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Q

What is the process for booking and conducting last rites at this new site?

A

The requests would need to be sent to enquiries@llandaffrc.com with at least nine days’ notice for an appointment at the Llandaff Rowing Club.

They would be required to provide:

  • Applicants name and contact details

  • Day and date and time of the ceremony

  • Numbers of people attending

The pandemic caused some delays to the smooth running of the site, but it is now functional and in use as of date.

Q

Does the opening acquire added significance given the pandemic and lockdown?

A

The need for this type of service has never been in more demand. The pandemic has had an unprecedented effect and caused many premature deaths with an additional impact on Britain’s ethnic minorities.

We have all lost someone we know during this difficult time. This site has already proved valuable during lockdown as many families have already performed the last rites of their loved ones here. Some families have not been able to travel abroad, as some normally would, to perform the last rites of their loved ones.

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Q

What is the journey of this initiative led by ASGW?

A

In the 1980s, the Sikh community came across this problem when a few of our elders passed away. Mr Sumitar Dhanowa, Mid Glamorgan County Council Engineer, raised our requirement with the South Wales authorities and agreed with Welsh Water to use a site near Pontsarn Bridge in the Brecon Beacons. The site served the community for the past 30-40 years.

This matter was first brought to the attention of Cardiff Council by Mr Jaswant Singh, County Councillor in 1999, when sites were offered by the council but either they were unsuitable or there were objections to the use of the site.

In 2013, the search for a suitable site was given a new impetus by Mr Channi Kaler. He contacted many Hindu and Sikh institutions to resolve this issue with the formation of a joint group.

The Group liaised with Cardiff Council and the first meeting at the County Council offices was held in April 2013, chaired by Cllr Lynda Thorne (Cabinet Member for Communities, Housing & Social Justice). Luke Burton (Principal Citizen Focus Officer) was very helpful in identifying and exploring the suitability of various sites along Rivers Taff & Ely, which did not meet our requirements or there were objections raised to their use.

In December 2016, the Group was formalised and named Antim Sanskar Group Wales (ASGW), comprised of Chair Vimla Patel, Secretary Radhika Kadaba, Treasurer Channi Kaler, and Committee Members Jaswant Singh, Naran Patel, Siva Sivapalan, Verinder Bhogal, Sakti Guha-Niyogi and Karsan Vaghani.

In December 2017, the group had an offer of a site in Cardiff from Martin Birch, Operational Manager of Bereavement & Registration Services for the City & County of Cardiff, with the recommendation of Cllr Michael Michael (Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Recycling and Environment), which met all our requirements. The proposed location was on the banks of River Taff at Llandaff Rowing Club.

The members of ASGW accepted the offer of the location at Llandaff Rowing Club and the site was blessed by holding Bhumi Puja and Ardas on July 22, 2020, before start of construction. The contract was completed in September 2020 with a new pontoon for the use of the Rowing Club and a facility for the scattering of ashes. The site provides ample parking and other facilities, which can be used with the agreement of the club.

Cardiff Council funded the construction and the Llandaff Rowing Club and members of the Hindu and Sikh communities of South Wales contributed financially to meet the final costs.

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