Birth and living life regarded as punishment: Funeral customs among the Satiyaa tribe – Rajasthan

The Indian Express, Kota, Fri Aug 24 2012

Contrary to the usual norm of life, one gypsy tribe from Rajasthan actually rejoice and revel in deaths in their family counting them as one of the happiest events in their lives while treating births as occasions of great grief.

The Satiyaa community comprising about 24 odd gypsy families scattered across the state live in temporary shelters along roadsides and in empty spaces rely solely on disposing off the dead bodies of cattle from the roads. […]

“We wear fresh garments, buy sweets, dry fruits and local liquor on the occasion,” says Jhankya Satiyaa, a Satiyaa. The dead body is taken to crematorium in a procession of dancing and twisting groups of near and dears on the tune of drums. After the funeral pyre is lit, members from the tribe arrange a feast, consume locally brewed liquor and dance with vigour until the body is completely reduced to ashes.

“Death is a great occasion for us as it liberates the soul from the physical prison,” says another member from the community who points out “birth and living life is a great punishment by God to sinful souls”.

Arun Kumar Saxena, a senior journalist who has researched the tribe says Satiyaas consider life to be a curse from God.

“However, the girl child is given more attention and care in the community as she becomes a source of earning for the family through prostitution,” he says. […]

Even though they reside alongside the “hustle and bustle” of cities, the tribe is extremely withdrawn and mistrust outsiders.

Kota Anwar Ahemad a social activist points out that despite providing members of the Satiyaa tribe houses under the Indira Residential Scheme (Indira Awas Yojana) around a decade ago, the members allegedly sold them off. Also, he says children in the Satiyaa tribal community are also not sent to schools and grow up illiterate. […]

Source: Rajasthan’s gypsy tribe celebrate death, mourn births – Indian Express
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