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Watch last rites online

June 26, 2003 11:24 IST is the first to offer live Web cast of funerals


If you just can't get enough of the Internet while you're among the living, now's your chance to include it in your last rite of passage.


Bereaved friends and family who can't make it to your final farewell can pay their last respects digitally, thanks to Shri Saraswati Muktidham Trust in Gujarat, a funeral service that introduced online viewing of funerals on June 14.


"Frequently, we had people complaining how their close ones were unable to attend the ceremony and that it became a life-long regret for them," says Ashok Acharya, who manages the crematorium. "We thought that a live Internet broadcast would provide the right facility to these people," he added.


The Trust already has several facilities like a special bus for dead bodies (available for a token price), a prayer hall (with audio arrangement for religious shlokas), study and rest rooms. The overall operations of the campus have also been computerised. To add to these facilities, the Trust is now adding live Web casts.


For the vast Gujarati diaspora, especially those residing overseas, it is impossible to make the journey home in time for the cremation - usually conducted on the same day of death or in some cases, the next day. They can view the entire procedure from their homes anywhere in the world, sitting in front of their PCs.


So far there has been only one live Web cast, when a young man from the US requested for a live coverage of his father's funeral because he could not make it on time for the event.


To view the funeral procedure, all you need is Yahoo! Messenger. You need to log in to your messenger and add their Yahoo id ( to your friends list. Yahoo! allows you to view your friend's Web cam. You can get connected to the funeral process from this id. Anybody can watch the funeral when it is being Web casted. Right now, you do not have to take special permission. The daily and the date-wise death reports are also available on the site.


A funeral can be an emotional event for a family, and to some it might seem too private to put into cyberspace. But for others, this is a way to preserve the memories of their dear ones forever.


The Web cam will be strategically positioned on the platform where the bodies are ritually washed and then placed on the funeral pyre. The camera will be switched on at the family's request. The Web cam is also set to record the entire proceedings on a video CD for those who wish to record the last moments. "Neither the telecast, nor the CD will cost anything to the family," informs Acharya.


He admitted that the camera is being installed on a trial basis and the technology is still a little inadequate in terms of speed of broadcasting. "But the technology can be enhanced if there is sufficient demand," he says. Acharya is definitely hopeful that the trend will catch up soon - once the word about this unique facility spreads around.


Vidya Srinivasa Rao