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Burning of bodies is as old as humanity

James Momanyi @PeopleDailyKe

Cremation is as old as human history. Some scholars believe that it may have probably begun in any real sense during the early Stone Age, period around 3000 BC.

According to online research, most of the scholars also believe that cremation, which is the practice of reducing a corpse to its essential elements by burning, most likely started in Europe and the Near East.

It then spread across northern Europe, the British Isles during the Bronze Age, 2500 to 1000 BC before taking root in the rest of Europe and the world. Hindu cremation was known as early as 1900 BC. In Hinduism, cremation is based on the belief that a human being is made up of five elements of nature which need to be returned to their source at death.

Four of these elements—fire, earth, water and air—belong to the body and by cremation, they are returned to their earthly sphere.

However, by cremation, the fifth elements—the ether or fine matter—return to the higher world to which it belongs, and there it continues its existence in the afterlife. The ashes are then placed in urns or in a river, preferably the sacred Ganges.

By the time of the Roman and Creek civilisations, cremations had been generally adopted as a method of disposing of the dead. With the advent and spread of Christianity, however, and its belief that in the resurrection of the dead, cremation started to lose appeal.

Most Christians considered the practise pagan while in the Jewish culture, traditional sepulchre (a small room cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried) funeral was preferred.

In fact, a few years ago, the Church of Rome burnt the bodies of some ‘heretics’ in the belief that  they would not resurrect when Christ returns.

Years later, the practice started to take root with countries like Britain recording their first cremation in 1769 when the body of Honoretta Pratt, daughter of Sir John Brookes of York was illegally burned in an open grave at St George’s Burial Ground in London.

Since then, most countries have embraced cremation with some like Japan, Nepal and Thailand having a rate of more than 95 per cent while others like Italy, Ireland and Poland less than 10 per cent.

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