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Odisha: 83-Yr-Old Woman Breaks Gender Stereotype, Lights Husband’s Funeral Pyre

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04 February 2019


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Rourkela: The crematorium can be a scary place. Watching a person, who was once living, breathing and full of life, turn into ashes within few minutes is a daunting experience. One might find it hard to believe that someone so close and personal does not exist anymore and will only be seen in photographs. Despite the intimidating experience, an 83-year-old woman broke all gender stereotypes and lit her husband’s funeral pyre in Rourkela.

This, one in a hundred case was reported Steel city’s Gopabandhu Nagar. Rekha Mitra (83) was devastated when her husband Srinivas Mitra (85) breathed his last after suffering from heart problems and kidney damage. Dealing with the loss proved tough for her as she had no children. Her other family members were also estranged and thus mourning Rekha boldly took the step of creamting her husband. She set an example by sending a powerful message against gender stereotypes in Hindu customs.

Sharing her experience, she said, “When I went for the last rites, I was told that I have the right to do so. Because I have never gone to the crematorium in my life, I was a little confused about the rituals. The priest started chanting the mantras and I was instructed how to perform the rituals prior to lighting the pyre. I did it all smoothly. The moment I started lighting the pyre, it hurt and troubled me a lot. I was asked not to look back and move ahead.”

However all is not bleak for Rekha. She said, “I live amidst a lovable and affectionate surroundings for which I got all the cooperation voluntarily by the neighbors and the people of the locality. Had it not been for them, how could I stay here alone?” “Vedavyas is a scared place because it has got the confluence of Triveni. Since, I am unable to go to Puri or Prayagraj for immersion of ‘ashti’, so I solemnized the vital ritual at Vedavayas itself,” she said and stared into the abyss, trying to come to terms with reality.

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Rekha Mitra