Defying Tradition, Women Perform Last Rites

via IANS published on April 8, 2010

ALLAHABAD: They are called “maharajin buas.” Hindu women from several families have defied tradition in Maniaya village of Uttar Pradesh to take up the profession of priests who perform the last rites. The women priests of Maniaya village in Allahabad can be seen lighting pyres and performing other Vedic rites along the banks of the river Ganga.

There is nothing in Hindu Vedic texts that bars women from carrying out cremations, though traditionally men have taken up the profession. Also, these women priests are not necessarily Brahmins and are different from temple priests.

Women from nearly seven families in Maniaya village have taken up the profession that is still considered a male domain. While some of the women do it to diversify their family income, others have taken it up to continue their ancestral profession that could have otherwise ended in the absence of a male family member.

“I took up the job for both reasons. My father, who was a mahapatra (male priest who performs last rites) died two years ago. There was no male member in my family who could have carried forward our ancestral business,” said Guddan, 24, a woman priest in Maniaya village.

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