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Woollen Coffins and Caskets
|by Rajesh Talwar|
The Hari Putar Dialogues - 66
(BBC ; London ; July 14 : A West Yorkshire firm best known for making military uniforms has launched a range of woollen coffins. Pudsey-based textile firm Hainsworth said it had used 17th Century burial methods as inspiration for the woollen coffins and caskets. The biodegradable coffins are made of sheep's wool and cardboard and have an embroidered nameplate. The 1667 Burial in Wool Act said the dead, except plague victims, should be buried in English woollen shrouds. Hainsworth, which was founded in 1783, makes uniforms and textiles for the emergency services and the military. The coffins will be distributed by Tyne & Wear Company.)
Putar: There is a BBC report that there is an English company that has come up with a new design for coffins. A unique coffin has been developed by a Brit textile firm.
Hari: What kind of coffins are these?
Putar: These are woollen coffins.
Hari: It is cold in the grave as it's below the surface of the earth. So is this wool meant to keep the dead warm ' in the style of Egyptian Pharaohs?
Putar: No, that is not the reason. Woollen coffins are more environmentally friendly. Wool is biodegradable.
Hari: So this will be an environment friendly way to die?
Putar: Exactly. I suppose though that the sheep farmers will benefit as well if this idea catches on. The price of wool will go up.
Hari: But traditional coffin makers will not be so happy.
Putar: No, they won't. Coffins are made out of wood for very many people. That means cutting down trees. For the rich and famous, coffins were often made of lead, iron and other metals.
Hari: What about the customers? Will this woollen coffin be cheaper?
Putar: Not really. The caskets will cost 600 pounds. The dead will quite literally be fleeced, in a manner of speaking for that's not cheap. The coffins will have embroidered woollen nameplates, made from pure new wool and supported on a cardboard frame. They are produced by textile firm Hainsworth at its mill in Leeds, and distributed by coffin maker JC Atkinson, of Washington, Tyne and Wear.
Hari: If you think about it though, isn't cremation friendlier to the environment.
Putar: Not sure about that. In many ways it is, but on the other hand so much smoke is released into the air. There is one big advantage that cremation does have over burial though. It doesn't take up space.
Hari: That's true. Cemeteries take up a lot of space.
Putar: Exactly. Perhaps now they should introduce high rise cemeteries.
Hari: You mean a multi-storeyed building full of buried bodies. People would find that outrageous.
Putar: Well, if you can have a multi-storeyed parking lot ' which is designed so as to save urban spaces ' why not for dead people.
Hari: That's not possible. Constructing a high rise building that is full of dead bodies. That would be a waste of public money.
Putar: It may actually save money. Don't forget the land on which some of these cemeteries stand is extremely valuable.
Hari: I suppose it's a personal decision whether a person wishes to be buried or cremated. For many persons their religious teachings are what are important. They don't want to listen to scientific arguments explaining why cremation is better or the other way around. For instance there are many Christians who think cremation is okay, but there are others who are opposed to it because they think that if the body is burnt it cannot be resurrected.
Putar: But even inside the earth, the body in its original form will not remain there for long.
Hari: That's true, but it's all a matter of personal faith and belief. There are also other people who believe that if you have a place where the person was buried, his loved ones can visit the site and pay their respects.
Putar: They could hang a photograph on the wall and put a garland around it every now and again as some people do. You know what would be really environmentally friendly though.
Putar: If after burying someone, instead of putting a tomb stone, you planted a tree over the place.
Hari: What advantage would that have?
Putar: Plant different trees for different people. That way you can preserve different varieties. And those trees then cannot ever be cut down.
Hari: People can even choose the tree that they want to be planted over their bodies.
Putar: And you can hang a sign over the tree pointing out who was buried there.
Hari: I don't think family members will accept such an idea. They will think of the trees roots invading the body. And also trees will occupy a large space, so it won't be cheap.
Putar: But it will take time for the tree to grown and in any case the body will ultimately degenerate. If that idea is offensive they could plant some flowers instead. A rose bush for instance. Tell me something, Papaji.
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: Would you agree that if we stop burying people ' and if governments were to start to reclaim land from cemeteries, as has been done in some cities around the world ' that will create more space for houses and apartments where living people can reside?
Hari: Of course it will.
Putar: In a way, according to such a policy the dead must make way for the living.
Putar: On the other hand someone can argue that we should continue to honor the dead, and retain these cemeteries. The living must start to live in such a way that we create more space and respect for the dead. This means better urban planning and controlling population growth, for instance. The living must learn how to live better and create space for the dead. In other words the living must make way for the dead. What would you say to such an argument?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.
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