Incineration of a Hindu prince

Prince Bapu Saheb Ghatjay accompanied by his son-in-law Prince Sampatras and his retinue spent the summer of 1884 at Étretat before going to Oxford. Despite the most strenuous efforts of Dr Fidelin, Prince Bapu Saheb Ghatjay, who had been ill for several days, died. A request was made to the Mayor, Adolphe Boissaye, for permission to cremate him (in accordance with the sacred rites of the Hindu religion).The latter sent this request by telegram (at 8 o'clock in the morning, when the offices opened) to the Prefect requesting authorisation and indicating that, in the absence of a reply, the ceremony would be performed on the following evening. As there was no reply, at midnight, a funeral pyre one metre high was erected and the body after having been prepared was transported into the town in silence and 2 hours later the funeral pyre was completed. Only a few witnesses attended the ceremony. Prince Sampatras lit the funeral pyre and at dawn all that remained were a few bones, consigned to the sea and to be sent back to India. By six o'clock in the morning there were no traces of the incineration to be seen. When informed about the events of the previous night, the people of the village rushed onto the beach but all they saw was the blackened shingle. That morning a message from the Prefect arrived, which said: "Incineration absolutely forbidden".

Source: "Etretat – Hamlet of the setting sun" Henri Bacon     


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