Samsun Bibi of Odisha tends to crematorium as service to humanity

Story by  Rita Farhat Mukand | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 21-04-2024
Sanmsun Bibi
Sanmsun Bibi


Rita Farhat Mukand

Samsun Bibi of Odisha has been tending to a Hindu crematorium since 2012. She sweeps the crematorium and cleans the cremation ground daily and has planted 30 Neem trees over the ground which measures about an acre.

Every day, she waters the saplings and 30 Neem trees that she planted, said Sarat Behera of Khadianga who recently performed the last rites of his father at there. She locks the gates, keeps the keys, and turns on the lights of the crematorium. Her altruistic service is rendered without the expectation of any monetary reward.

Her story was first reported by Gujarat Samachar, the Ahmedabad-based newspaper group and her video posted on X:

Later The New Indian Express reported that the Executive officer of Kendrapara municipality Ashutosh Gourav admitted that the civic body doesn’t pay Samsun for her service. “Samsun Bibi has been maintaining the cremation ground for a long time. We are not paying any money to her. Sometimes, relatives and family members of dead persons pay her for her service,” he added.

Samsun says she honours the cremation place equally as the nearby burial ground of Muslims. “I’m here to ensure its protection and upkeep. Even during the worst of COVID times, I performed my duties sincerely.”

Samsun lives with her three daughters and husband in a small thatched house near the cremation ground “There is no pressure on me from my family or Muslim relatives, they support my work to clean the Hindu cremation ground every day,” she says. Her husband Sheikh Sulaiman is a daily wager.

It all started in 2012, in the little town of Kendrapara in Odisha, where Sheikh Sulaiman and his wife Samsun Bibi took on the duty as solemn caretakers of the Hindu crematorium. Samsun Bibi rose as a beacon of compassion, pouring out her services over the cremation ground nestled by the riverside, a sanctuary of solace and reverence.

With each sweep of her broom, each offering of water, and each gentle flicker of the sacred light, Samsun Bibi orchestrates a melody of reverence and respect sending out a strong message of love and harmony between the Hindus and Muslims.

Under her stewardship, the once desolate landscape has blossomed into a lush oasis, adorned with countless saplings and thirty majestic Neem trees. Under her watchful care, she organized the smooth functioning of the crematorium and stood as a vigilant guardian at the gates, ensuring that peace reigns within these sacred grounds.

She said, to her there exists no division between the sacred grounds of Hindu cremation and the hallowed resting place of Muslims.

Locals said it was becoming difficult to prevent stray dogs and livestock from entering the cremation ground. Now, since Samsun keeps the gate locked, strays don’t venture there

Senior lawyer of Kendrapara Umesh Chandra Singh said at a time when communal harmony and religious tolerance have become rare commodities in today’s society, Samsun Bibi is a symbol of hope.

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Samsun Bibi has become a living embodiment of the enduring spirit of interfaith harmony, a beacon of hope during the tempestuous seas of religious intolerance. Her noble deeds echo across the ages, a timeless testament to the power of love and compassion to transcend all barriers.

Rita Farhat Mukand is an independent writer