MADURAI: Though many people as per custom offer special prayers to ancestors on Amavasaya day, a 52-year-old grave digger here adopts a novel and environment-friendly way to observe the occasion.
Meet Hari, the grave digger, who planted 21 saplings at the Thathaneri cremation ground here to mark the day.
“My idea is aimed at providing shade for mourners who turn up at the cremation ground to attend the last rites of their kin”, explains the grave digger.
Clad in brown shirt and half trousers, Hari treating the saplings like kids while planting them in the presence of corporation health officer Yasodha on Tuesday morning. “Those who can afford offer poojas in temples, river banks and on shores on this day. But, I thought of serving Mother Nature by planting these saplings as they would help preserve the environment beside giving shade for the mourners,” said Hari.
Hari, who has been working as grave digger (known as vettiyans in Tamil) for nearly 40 years at Thathaneri ground, lost his parents when he was six. “Every time when I plant a sapling I remember my mother. These are like my kids,” he said pointing to a grown up Neem tree near the ground entrance.
When Hari joined as grave digger assistant at the cremation ground, the entire area was filled with prosopis julieflora. “People visit the place only during the cremation. They have to wait for longs hour under the sun till we complete the process,” he recalled.
What sparked the idea in me was the plight of mourners, who struggled to wait even for a few minutes under the sun. So, in 1998 he decided to increase the green cover.
“Though my earning depends on the money given by people, who come for cremation, I spend from my pocket to buy these saplings. I mostly prefer Neem sapling as it has medicinal values,” said Hari.
He became a role model for other grave diggers and they are also following in his footsepts now. For instance, Muthupandi (54), a gravedigger, said, “During the morning shift, our day begins with the job of watering the saplings planted by Hari. Now the cremation ground is dotted with around 70 trees and we treat them like our children.”
Hari also supports the education of children from marginal communities at Palanganatham where he lives with his family.