The business of rites and rituals

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on May 27, 2013

There are now organisations that conduct the ultimate send-off and many other religious rituals

Achanta Sai Kumar, first-year MBA student, is making the best use of his knowledge in traditional rituals.

On Sundays and holidays, he works – making a quick buck by performing last rites.

Sai Kumar belongs to a breed of priests who conduct religious rituals, especially death ceremonies, for the fast-paced urban world that has no time or the wherewithal for such ceremonies.

“There has been a strong demand for these services in urban areas as many cannot conduct these rituals in their houses like before,” said Rajya Lakshmi, who runs Gayatri Seva Sadan here along with her husband, Swamy.

With four branches in Hyderabad and one in Vijayawada, Gayathri Seva Sadan employs over 200 people, including priests.

It has dedicated staff for front-office and back-end work who maintain computerised records of their clients.

J. S. Sastry, who runs a similar set up in Vidyanagar, also testifies this. “We have regular clients ranging from IAS officers to film-actors, and the number is growing,” he said.

Apart from individual priest-turned entrepreneurs, there are bigger organisations such as Mathas and Bharatiya Sevashram who perform rituals on a larger scale, over a hundred simultaneously.

“But this scale deters many. Some prefer personalised service,” Sastry said.

Objections from neighbours, unavailability of priests, and the long, complex process of it are also forcing people to outsource ritual services.

“I am coming here for last nine years as it is convenient. You just pay, come with the family, spend about two hours and the ritual is done, followed by a traditional lunch,” A. Satyanarayana Murthy, an official with Indian railways, said.

Generally, the ritual alone is conducted for Rs 3,000, with additional charges for lunch depending on the number of people.


Many priests are finding the regular income from signing up with such organisations beneficial. “I get a salary of Rs 10,000 a month,” Babji, a priest, said. He performs two ceremonies a day.

Then there are young part-timers like Sai Kumar. “This is just like another world for me but I find it a decent job with a deep religious touch.

I earn about Rs 300-500 a day,” he said.

Published on May 26, 2013

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