Coimbatore/Allahabad, July 1 (ANI): While rallies were organised across the country to mark the 'National Day of Girl Child' on Sunday, a woman performed the last rites of her father-in-law in Allahabad, forbidden in the Hindu custom.Maya Mukti Upadhyaya set a precedent when she performed the last rites of her father-in-law.
2) July 22, 2007 - Bihar
A Hindu woman from Bihar has broken age-old Hindu traditions by performing the last rites of her husband, a ritual usually done by male members of the family, describing him as her dearest friend.Geetu Avinash, in her 50s, Sunday performed the 'shradh ceremony' (ritual performed after a death) of her husband Avinash Kumar at Ara, about 60 km from here.
3) Sep 16, 2007 - Orissa
According to Hindu rites, women are not allowed inside crematoriums. But Shanti Behera, 49, spends most of her time inside the Sambalpur municipality crematorium. And whenever chants of “Ram naam satya hai” draw near, she knows that’s her cue to start preparing yet another funeral pyre...
4) Sep 19, 2007 - Bihar, again
For the first time, women in Nawada village of Bihar have broken an age old tradition.
Sharmila Devi and Meena Devi carried their deceased father's body to the cremation ground though the bereaved family has three sons...... And surprisingly, even men support this call for change.
lol... in their zeal to be the "first ones" to report an incident like this, each medium is claiming that the incident quoted by them is the first in history...... and a little google search showed me that there are incidents reported years before also and who knows, there may have been these incidents dating all the way back ...
2003 - http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030914/herworld.htm#1
In Ujjain, Sandhya Chauhan, the only daughter of Mangilal Chauhan, lit the pyre of her father on the Shipra Ghat near the famous Mahakaleshwar temple. "I fulfilled my father's last wish that only I should perform his last rites,"
1993 - This the account of Ms. Bandita Phukan. She is the first woman mechanical engineer in the State of Assam. When her father died in 1993, the relatives tried to find a son of a cousin to do the last rites (Shraddha), because her father did not have a son. Bandita revolted, and asked the priest to permit her to do the last rites. At the beginning, the priest refused. Last rites of a dead person can be performed only by a male member of the family, and never by a daughter. Bandita did not give up. At her insistence, one Brahmin priest came forward and allowed her to perform the last rites of her father.
The last article concludes with a paragraph
If married Hindu daughters could be allowed to perform the Shraddha cerimonies, concludes Phukan, their surviving parents would be happy to have a dear daughter as eligible as their dear son.
Eventhough the declining female:male ratio in India may have multiple causes (social and financial more than anything else ) I strongly believe that anything in Hinduism that may even remotely cause people to justify infant girl-child mortality should be trashed.. I have so far never come across any shruti references justifying or asking sati ( the ones quoted by some leftist intellectuals from the Vedas turned out to be a clear misinterpretation ) and my gut feeling is that even this custom of last rites has nothing to do with the shrutis ....
if anything it might be mentioned in some smrithis... ( and for a small discussion on smrithis see http://www.geocities.com/satyawaadi/smrithi.html ) or minsinterpreted as is the case with sati and things like http://drisyadrisya.blogspot.com/2006/02/et-tu.html
I am now curious to know where the scriptural reference if any are.... might take me a while, as I will have to go thro' scores of internet references... meantime, if any of the readers know anything, my request is to kindly post in the comments section or email me
ps: Even if it were a shruti injection, it doesn't surprise me that the customs can be changed, or that such an action would not invoke anything similar to a fatwa... Quoting Sri Aurobindo "Hinduism, which is the most skeptical and the most believing of all, the most skeptical because it has questioned and experimented the most, the most believing because it has the deepest experience and the most varied and positive spiritual knowledge, that wider Hinduism which is not a dogma or combination of dogmas but a law of life, which is not a social framework but the spirit of a past and future social evolution, which rejects nothing but insists on testing and experiencing everything and when tested and experienced, turning in to the soul's uses, in this Hinduism, we find the basis of future world religion. This Sanatana Dharma has many scriptures: The Veda, the Vedanta, the Gita, the Upanishads, the Darshanas, the Puranas, the Tantras:......but its real, the most authoritative scripture is in the heart in which the Eternal has his dwelling"