Daughter-in-law lights pyre

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Lucknow
  • Published 1.07.07
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Lucknow, July 1: An Allahabad widow with no children performed the last rites of her father-in-law in what priests say is the first such act by a daughter-in-law in Uttar Pradesh.

Maya Mukti Upadhyay, 42, lit Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay’s pyre on the banks of the Ganga last morning. The 95-year-old had passed away late on Friday.

While some daughters, often from families where there are no male heirs, have performed the final rites in some cases, Maya’s act, apparently Ashwini’s last wish, is a first.

Maya had continued living with her father-in-law, a clerk in the auditor-general’s office, after her husband Suresh’s death in 1987.

Her mother-in-law had passed away before her marriage into the Upadhyay family.

There was none to look after the nonagenarian Ashwini other than Maya, who chose not to remarry.

A postgraduate in history, Maya taught at a local college and, unlike many who don’t get along with their in-laws, was attached to her pensioner father-in-law.

Ashwini, too, treated Maya like his own daughter and relatives say the widow never left her father-in-law alone.

Maya did face problems at the cremation site in Allahabad’s Phaphamau when a number of local priests protested against what they perceived was a violation of Hindu Vedic traditions that allow only men to perform the last rites.

Jatin Tiwari, the senior priest conducting the proceedings, refused to allow Maya to light the pyre. Other priests joined him, raising a chorus of protest. They relented after some elderly citizens from the area intervened.

Some resistance came from Brahmins, Maya’s own community, but it petered out.

“I was overwhelmed by the support I got from my male relatives. My husband’s cousin and his family, for instance, stood by me,” she said.

The relatives accompanied Maya to the cremation, hired priests and helped her with all the arrangements.