The use of fire in achieving moral purity:

Hindus in India are cremated upon open grounds upon wooden pyres…The body is to be set alight only by the male child of the deceased, or the closest male relative. [Wikipedia]

Thousands of alleged militants, human rights activists, and ordinary Sikhs in Punjab were summarily executed by security forces… Their bodies were then cremated to destroy the evidence… His investigation led him to enquire into the purchase of firewood by security forces. He found that thousands of so-called unidentified or unclaimed bodies were being secretly cremated by the police with this firewood. [Human Rights Watch]

Today’s WaPo:

But the detainees were moved elsewhere to similar CIA prisons, referred to as “black sites” in classified documents… The agency is working to establish procedures in the event a prisoner dies in custody. One proposal circulating among mid-level officers calls for rushing in a CIA pathologist to perform an autopsy and then quickly burning the body, according to two sources. [Washington Post]

6 thoughts on “Purification

  1. I’m going to break my usual policy of not directly mentioning my Shakespeare blog in comments to mention my last two posts, one on Sonnet #59, where Shakespeare discusses reincarnation, and another on Titus Andronicus, where Shakespeare investigates the human dimension behind (dis)honor killings such as were recently reported in Pakistan.

    Almost nothing lies beyond Shakespeare’s imagination.

  2. The body is to be set alight only by the male child of the deceased, or the closest male relative. [Wikipedia]

    Not sure if this is right. Dr. Vikram Sarabhai’s daughter performed all the rites. It may be the old-world version

  3. The body is to be set alight only by the male child of the deceased, or the closest male relative. [Wikipedia]

    That is the traditional, Veda suggested way. However, I have heard of numerous instances recently where daughters perform the rights too. This tradition is a remnant of some of the patriarchal policies that Hinduism preaches.

  4. cremation is the bane of archeologists :) archeologists have a preference that ancient cultures not practice this, as bodies are obviously great sources of information. to some extent you have more bodies of bronze age greeks than classical greeks because of the transition from the burial to cremation (the burning of bodies in the illiad was more reflective of iron age than bronze age sensibilities).

  5. The things I learn on this blog :-) That was something. About the different kinds of Greeks!! Thanks RtA

  6. Side note: More and more Hindus, in India, are sent off in electric crematoriums these days, e.g. my recently-deceased uncle from a very orthodox Hindu Brahmin family. While the law in a majority of India states that a woman may not have a corpse released from the hospital/morgue for funerary purposes, it is up to the family as to who lights the pyre. It is proper for the eldest living male member of the immediate household to conduct the rites and lead the 13-day mourning period, but this hasn’t stopped several daughters, wives and sisters from lighting pyres.

    The CIA has its hand in every stinking pot, doesn’t it? I wonder what exists in the way of dental records for these poor souls.