A campagin for open-air funeral pyres in the UK has won the backing of the Hindu equivalent of the Pope.
Davender Ghai, president of Newcastle’s Anglo-Asian Friendship Society, has been given permission to test the law by a High Court judge.
His campaign has received widespread support from people across the country.
Now a renowned Hindu religious leader on a trip to England has given his stamp of approval.
Shankaracharaya Swami Divayanand Teerth of Bhanpura, a revered figure in the Hindu community, visited Mr Ghai at his Gosforth home and praised him for his work and his efforts to establish an open-air funeral site in Pakistan.
He said: “Davender Ghai works tirelessly to bring harmony between the different groups without discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, gender or religion.
“He has done a truly commendable job by compelling the government of Pakistan to construct an open-air funeral site on Bund Road, in Lahore, for the benefit of both Hindu and Sikh communities.
“I fully support and praise his campaign for similar rights in Britain and other western countries. Cremation in the open air is the birthright of Hindus and Sikhs as well as their unalterable duty.”
A few years ago, Mr Ghai was the chief guest of Swami Divyanand Teerth at his annual address to the Hindu congregation in Assam, India.
He said: “I am very pleased to have received his support. He is the equivalent of the Pope for the Hindu community and is respected all over the world.
“He met us in Newcastle and heard about what we were doing. He felt our campaign was commendable and even put it down in writing in a letter.
“His words have given us a big boost.”
Sikh organisations have also approached the charity’s legal team indicating they want to support the judicial review in court.
Andrew Bogan, the group’s legal co-ordinator, said: “They will bring their own team of lawyers to represent the interests of Sikhs on the basis that, while it is not a strict religious requirement for them as it is for Hindus, given the choice many Sikhs would still prefer open air cremation.”
Swami Divayanand Teerth renounced home at the age of 27 and moved from one place to another to meet religious figures and gain spiritual knowledge, dedicating his life to enhance the value of human lives.
Mr Ghai, who organised the open-air funeral of Rajpal Mehat in Northumberland last year, has won legal aid to fight his case in the High Court.