Pradeep Pattanayak

In this world, when most people are worshipping at the altar of their own interest, a bunch of like-minded people are going the extra mile to ensure dignity for the dead.

In Sundargarh town, there is a unique organisation called ‘Smashan Bandhu’.  As the name of the organisation suggests, they are the friends of those who have departed with no one to perform their last rites and take their mortal remains to the Ganga. 

They said they believe in the well-accepted belief in the Hindu religion that a departed soul attains moksha only after the mortal remains are immersed in holy water. 

The ‘Smashan Bandhu’ members have been going off the beaten path since 2000. Initially, they were performing the last rites of unknown bodies. But they have been immersing the mortal remains in the Ganga for the last four years. 
They have so far immersed the mortal remains of over 700 unknown persons. 

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“We performed the last rites of 56 bodies between the period November 2022 and January 2024 and preserved their mortal remains. As it is believed that one attains moksha when their mortal remains are immersed in holy water, we recently performed the rituals at Sangam and did the ‘Pinda Daan’ ritual at Gaya,” said Siddhant Panda, a Smashan Bandhu. 

“We are able to do this only because our family members are supporting us,” said Panda. 

On returning, they also treat the villagers with a feast which they call the ‘Ganga Bhoji’.

(Reported by Debabrata Jena)