CHENNAI: Maamis in madisaars, poonal-wearing middle-aged men in veshtis and even kids in t-shirts, all in different stages of bereavement, are a common sight at Gnanavapi, a funeral rites centre at T Nagar. In one of the 12 ‘karma rooms’, a vaadhiyar can be seen making pindams.
This is an important aspect of the centre — every single entity of final rites, right down to the smallest twig, is taken care of by Gnanavapi. “We customise last rites according to the needs of every family, as long as it is in line with the shastras. There is no shared room or kitchen; every single room is separate, right down to the bathroom,” says S Ravichandran, president, Sri Rama Samajam.
Each floor of the three-storeyed building, which was renovated in 2013, serves a different purpose. While the ground floor is used for the everyday rites, the first floor hosts 11th and 12th day rituals, while the meal on the 10th day is served on the third floor. “It is a practice that one should not go back hungry after such rituals. For instance, if you observe a place of death, usually they serve coffee. This is to ensure you do not go back with an empty stomach,” says Ravichandran.
Several people call their family members and have a 10th day lunch served on the third floor — at times, people also ask for a feast to be served. How many bereaved are served depends on the karmas, says Y Rajaangam, additional secretary, Sri Rama Samajam. “On an average, we get one karma a day. This almost doubles in the Tamil month of Margazhi,” explains Ravichandran. “A lot of old people pass away then. Maybe because of the chill.”
The centre also has a Hindu block, where Hindus from all communities can do their rites. Gnanavapi was conceptualised in 1983 by Kanchi Mahaperiyaval. After renovation, the centre was opened to the public in 2013. “This is not done with a profit motive. In fact, the office bearers hold honorary positions,” informs Ravichandran. Most employees and priests are hired through contract, he says.
The centre charges `13,000 to felicitate four days’ rites and `18,000 for 12 days. This doesn’t include the 10th day feast. For more details on Gnanavapi, contact 23451602.
While the body is cremated, it is believed the last rites are performed for the welfare of the soul, which can reach heaven only if the rites are performed, according to veda shastras