Most families today have now discovered new (yet old) ways to honour their loved ones in how the body is buried. In making the decision of whether to bury or cremate the body, many factors are taken into consideration. One of the final disposition options that are becoming more widespread in recent years is shrouding.
A shroud is a long piece of cloth, usually natural material such as cotton, linen or bamboo, which is wrapped around a dead body after it has been prepared for burial. The shrouded body is usually placed directly in the grave without a casket. This simple method uses a minimum of materials while still honouring the dignity of the deceased during burial.
Shrouding is simple, eco-friendly, and relatively affordable. Some faiths require it, some people simply prefer the aesthetics of it, some families are looking for a budget-friendly option, and of course, many people have health concerns about the environmental impact of burial. For these reasons and many more, the idea of a natural burial with a body wrapped in a simple shroud is appealing to many families.
A shortage of space in cemeteries is forcing the Christians to reuse graves, but bodies buried in coffins do not decompose fast enough for burial spaces to be reused. Therefore, in view of the non-decomposition of bodies, it has been strictly recommended to have shroud burials, but the idea is yet to become popular in India among Christian communities.
Many Christian communities in Mumbai agree that the idea of shroud burials is good since coffins are expensive and require the cutting down of trees for the wood. Coffins also take a long time to disintegrate in the soil and do not free-up grave space. Crowded cemeteries are a problem across the world. Churches in Eastern Europe have created grisly but spectacular installations from skeletons taken from graveyards. Paris’s catacombs contain the remains of millions of bodies exhumed from overflowing graveyards. Cremations have become popular in most European countries where the grave space is limited.
In India, niche burials — where the bodies are interred in concrete cubicles stacked above the ground — are becoming more common.
Many cultures and religions all around the world use or have shrouds as part of their burial rituals, including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism.
The church has used the example of Jesus Christ who is believed to have been buried in a shroud. If Jesus Christ and the early Christians could be buried in shrouds, why can’t we modern-day Christians since coffins cost around Rs 20,000 to Rs 35,000 per piece depending upon the type of wood used to make it?
There is a piece of fabric called the ‘Shroud of Turin’ which is still preserved by the Catholic Church with the imprints of a bearded man on it (believed to be the real face of Jesus Christ), but scholars are not fully convinced about its authenticity to inform people that it was actually the face of Jesus Christ whose bleeding face and a crown of thorns are on it.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)