Roy Gilbert

Mandira Bedi: Actress stirs debate over women’s role at cremations

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Press Trust of India image captionMandira Bedi performed husband Raj Kaushal’s funeral rites Indian actress and TV presenter Mandira Bedi recently hit the headlines for performing her husband’s last rites. Cremations are traditionally done by men, and women are often discouraged from even attending. But where does this belief come from and what do Hindu scriptures say about it?

With a clay pot containing holy water in one hand and holding up the bier – a bamboo frame – carrying the body of Raj Kaushal with another, Bedi wept as she did the rituals and lit his funeral pyre.

Kaushal, a 49-year-old filmmaker, died suddenly on 30 June from cardiac arrest in the western city of Mumbai.

The actress received messages of heartfelt condolences and won praise for what many described as standing up to patriarchy even while grieving.

Popular author and columnist Shobhaa De wrote that the image of “a grief-stricken Mandira doing her husband’s last rites challenged archaic norms governing our society for centuries and sent out a charged and powerful anti-patriarchy message”.

“When Bedi lit her husband’s pyre this week, unknowingly she also lit countless fires in the hearts of men and women who believe in themselves – and not in conventions that have held back our society for centuries. Those shackles instantly broke as the flames from the pyre touched the sky,” Ms De wrote . Getty Images image captionMandira Bedi’s filmmaker husband Raj Kaushal died from a cardiac arrest For the record, Bedi is not the only woman […]