Customs, rites should keep pace with changes in society

The suggestions made by Dr George Wong Seow Choon (Take hard look at outdated death rites; April 18) is worth reflecting on.

Traditions should change in tandem with technological advances, and we should also question the purposes and origins of traditions.

When my grandfather died in 1953, we strictly adhered to funeral rites prescribed in the Hindu scripture. This included cremation, scattering the ashes in the sea, and observing a 30-day period of impurity.

When my sister-in-law passed away in 2012, we cremated her body at the Mandai Crematorium and scattered the ashes in the sea, but we neither observed the period of impurity norrestrict women from participating in the cremation ritual.

Another ritual in the earlier days was to take a pot of charcoal for the funeral ritual. This was to start the fire in the cremation pits.

But we did not have to do this for my sister-in-law's cremation because Mandai Crematorium had electric fire-starters.

It is unfortunate that there are more superstitious components than cultural ones in our funeral traditions. Some of us cling onto outdated traditions, perhaps, out of fear.

Arguably, in the context of Singapore, communities' traditions are not necessarily in the best interest of the society's well-being. We need to be able to reason collectively and bring about changes to traditions to strengthen society.

S. Ratnakumar

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.