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Ranjana Dei – The Unsung Hero at City Crematorium

The gutsy woman claims to have cremated more than 15,000 bodies so far.

The idea of visiting a crematorium gives goose bumps to many. But, meet Ranjana Dei – a 58-year-old woman who has been cremating bodies at Satya Nagar crematorium in Bhubaneswar for the last 25 years.

It’s her grit and strong will power that enabled her to take up this unusual work after her husband, a BMC employee, fell sick.

Staying in a shanty inside the crematorium premises, Dei says, she has cremated many mutilated, decomposed bodies of accident victims, burnt cases and children but never got afraid of doing it. The gutsy woman claims to have cremated more than 15,000 bodies so far.


I had no other option but to continue the work as my husband couldn’t work due to illness. I cannot afford that he loses his job as there was a family of five children to feed. Initially I was feeling afraid to go closer to a dead body but slowly the fear disappeared.
Ranjana Dei

“There are many who give extra money for doing the job while there are others who don’t have anything to pay but I never said no to anyone. I think it is a sacred work I am doing by conducting the last rites of people,” Dei says.

According to her, all dead bodies used to be cremated manually using firewood earlier, but after the electric crematorium started, fewer people are opting for manual cremation. On an average around 70 to 80 bodies are brought to the crematorium every month of which nearly 30 are opting for manual cremation.

Even though Hindu women are prohibited to enter into crematoriums, she has never faced any kind of discrimination in the society for doing the odd job.

“Neither my children nor anyone in the society has ever said anything bad about the work I do; rather they appreciate my guts,” she added.


Not many men would dare to do the job she has been doing for years. Her work is very neat and careful for which people like her.
Bholanath Paikray, crematorium operator

When asked whether she has seen any ghost or supernatural thing in the crematorium, the gutsy woman says, “I wish I could have found any ghost all these years. I burnt bodies alone in the dead of the night but did not encounter any such thing. Probably ghosts afraid me,” she laughed.

She said she want to continue the work even after retirement of her husband Hari Nayak, which is due in the next six months.

Courtesy: Times of India

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