Priests in Bihar refuse to conduct last rites fearing Covid-19


Amid the lockdown imposed in Bihar to check coronavirus infections, the state government may have given permission for allowing marriages with certain restrictions but finding priests for solemnising marriages or conducting a ‘shradh’ and the last rites of a person is proving to be tough for many people.

The fear of Covid-19 has not spared even priests which is why they are avoiding performing marriages or last rites of people. People living in cities are desperate to find priests to conduct ‘shradh’. They are willing to shell out higher dakshina (donation) so that the rituals can be completed and the dead person’s soul finds peace.

Many people have moved to other states to find priests. Even if they find a priest, due to the markets remaining closed during the lockdown they are unable to arrange the materials for the last rites.

Satyadev Choubey, a resident of Bigha village, died three days ago but his family could not find a priest for conducting his last rites. They finally arranged a priest from Hariharganj in neighbouring Jharkhand who agreed to perform the last rites.

The priest performs the rituals on the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th day after the death of a person for which they are now charging hefty sums of money.

One such case was reported from Bhagalpur where the family of Mukesh Kumar Singh, a resident of Sikanderpur, had to call a priest from Gonda after his demise from Covid-19.

Pandit Vindeshwar Pathak, who is famous for conducting last rites in Aurangabad, said, “Sanatan Dharma has a ritual observed for 13 days for attaining peace of the departed soul. After these 13-day rituals the soul of the deceased achieves peace. At present, a large number of people are dying every day from Covid-19. Earlier, during this time there used to be calls asking for conducting ‘shradh’ of one or two people which has now gone up to five to six people.”

After the death of a person from Covid-19, priests are reluctant to perform the last rites of such people. They are frightened that their family would also get infected with Covid-19.

People are also finding quickfix ways to complete the last rites of a deceased person in the shortest possible time.

Priests are also hard to find for marriages. People say that priests have started demanding more money for marriages, too.