Indian community cremation in PortugalBy TPN/Lusa, In News, Lisbon · 05 May 2021, 20:00 · 1 Comments
Kantilal Jamnadas remembers perfectly the place where, for a decade, the Hindu community cremated their relatives, in the Alto São João cemetery, at a time when was not a common practice in Portugal.
Two huge trees, one embraced by the other, a garden bench and the view of the Tejo in the background are the scene of the place, an isolated place, which guaranteed the privacy of the ceremonies, which could only be done at the end of the day, when, for all intents and purposes, the Lisbon cemetery was already closed.
The pinha de lenha, still used in remote areas of India, is made outdoor and, therefore, required the protection of curious eyes.
Nothing was hidden, but with permission from the Lisbon City Council, faced with the arrival, after 25 April 1974, of many Indians, mainly from Mozambique and “few” from Angola, for whom cremation is imperative religious ceremony.
Founding businessman of Dan Cake Portugal, Kantilal Jamnadas arrived in Portugal, coming from Mozambique, in January 1976 - “no one imagines” the “troubled” country he came to find - and, shortly afterwards, a young Indian died. The Hindu tradition said that it was necessary to cremate him and then we realized that there was no place to do that.
Despite being legalized in 1911, in the Civil Registry Code, cremation had not been practiced in Portugal for 40 years.
The death of that young man was the beginning of a long process, which would finish in 1985, with the reopening of the crematorium oven at the Alto de São João cemetery.
Kantilal led contacts with the municipality, which showed "a lot of understanding" and never against cremation. However, the “bureaucratic complexity” of the material made the pinha de lenha the only alternative for years.
“At the time, they suggested that we should take the body to another side, but our philosophy is: destiny wants us to be born in a certain place and cremation should be done where life ends”, he explained.
“We Hindus like to remember our loved ones as they were in life”, he summarized. It seems simple: from nothing we saw, to nothing we go, the memories remain.
Not much more was needed: oil lamp, cotton, incense.
The difficult thing about cremation is that "it is necessary to know how to manage the wind", explained Kantilal, recognizing that "it is more painful to watch a cremation in a pinha de lenha than in the crematorium".
In Lisbon, where there are three crematorium ovens, most of the dead are already cremated: 60 percent, according to data from 2020, provided by Sara Gonçalves. Today, the cremation process lasts approximately two hours.
“It was a great service that we provided to the community”, considers Kantilal, mentioning two other “gifts” of Hindu inspiration: yoga and vegetarianism.
Founder of the Hindu Community of Portugal and outgoing chairman of Dan Cake Portugal (meanwhile sold to a French company), Kantilal does not deny his roots, his parents are Indian, and has already been to India “more than a hundred times”, two of which in entourage presidential.
“I am a foreigner in India, I never lived there”, emphasizes Kantilal, mentioning the “difficulties” he felt, as owner of Dan Cake, when he tried to set up business in the Asian country.
"I usually say that I have an Indian soul, Portuguese heart and Mozambican physique", summarizes the best known face of the Hindu Community of Portugal, which he founded and presided over for decades (until 2018).