HINDUS are looking to create a dedicated area on the shore of Windermere where they can scatter cremated remains.

Devotees of the world's oldest religion want to install an altar-style platform and build a link road to the lake shore to disperse the ashes of their loved ones on the water.

Over four decades, Hindus of the Shree Swaminarayan Gadi faith have considered the waters of Windermere to be as purifying as those from holy rivers in India, such as the Ganges.

The veneration stems from a visit paid by to Bowness by a revered Hindu leader in 1979.

Since then hundreds of UK followers of Hinduism have visited the lake, some of them to scatter their loved ones' remains.

Now Rajan Zed, a leading USA-based Hindu, said it was time to formalise such ceremonies by creating a special area for grieving families.

One source estimates as many as 10 of these could be carried out each month.

However, there are potential concerns over the environmental impact too much ash-scattering could have on Windermere, with the Lakes-based Freshwater Biological Association suggesting that a 'thorough scientific study would need to consider a range of factors'.

In a statement to a conference in the US state of Nevada, Mr Zed said Hindus were already travelling to the Lakes to disperse ashes on Windermere.

Their reverence for the lake began following a visit on August 30, 1979, paid by Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa, who founded a worldwide centre for spiritual, cultural and social welfare.

He toured Windermere on a cruiser and held an assembly on the Glebe with hundreds of followers. He died later that evening.

Since then, the site has become one of upmost importance for the Shree Swaminarayan Gadi faith, with hundreds of Hindus visiting Bowness annually to commemorate the life of their spiritual figurehead, who was renowned for his promotion of peace and harmony.

Cremation and the place where ashes are scattered are believed by followers of Hinduism to be tied to reincarnation.

Khushal Bhojani, who dispersed his father's ashes in Windermere last month, told The Times of India, that the lake was 'as holy as any river in India'.

Mr Zed said he wanted Environment Secretary Michael Gove, the Lake District National Park Authority's chairman Mike McKinley and its chief executive Richard Leafe 'to earnestly delve into developing this dedicated area' for scattering cremated remains.

He said if the officials needed any help in the religious expertise during the designing and development process, he or other Hindu scholars would be glad to assist.

"Besides Hindus, it would also benefit all others interested in scattering the cremated remains on the body of water," said Mr Zed.

Bowness councillor Magda Khan said Windermere Town Council members had not debated the issue but her personal view was that it would be better to disperse cremated remains at the outflow of Windermere rather than on a still part of the lake.

A spokesman for LDNPA said if an application was received it would go through the normal planning process.

Mark Eccles, head of park management, said the landowner's permission would be needed to spread ashes on private land and the Environment Agency would need to be contacted for inland rivers and lakes to check there is no nearby water supply.

The LDNPA added that while human ashes are not toxic, they do contain phosphate which can have effects on fragile plant life.

A spokesperson for South Lakeland District Council, which owns the bed of the Windermere, said: “We are aware that a number of people scatter ashes on the lake each year and occasionally we have had inquiries about how someone would go about getting permissions.

“We advise that the Environment Agency and United Utilities own the water in the lake and do already have guidance on the spreading of cremated remains in their bodies of water, the Lake District National Park make bylaws in terms of navigation on the lake...

“Permission to have a dedicated area to scatter ashes would therefore likely need to be given by the LDNPA if it required a bylaw that excluded other users from that area, and permission to scatter the ashes in the water would likely be something for the EA and UU to consider any potential impact on the water quality and ecology of the lake.’’

A spokesperson for The Freshwater Biological Association, which is based on the Lake shore, said the organisation had 'not studied the impact of cremation ash on the Windermere freshwater ecosystem'.

"Any thorough scientific study would need to consider a range of factors, for example, the frequency of such events and in which seasonal/climatic conditions, the retention time in Windermere and then the River Leven and the volume/intensity of recent rainfall. Further consideration would be the behaviour of ash within the changing vertical strata of the lake.

"Following cremation, the average weight of ash is around 3,000grams, but this also depends on the temperature at cremation."

The Environment Agency issues the following advice on the subject: "You don’t need permission to scatter ashes from a single cremation on your own land, or make any formal record of doing so. You should seek permission from the landowner if you want to scatter ashes on someone else’s land.

"If you’re spreading ashes across surface water you should avoid casting wreaths or other memorabilia – they may harm the environment, including wildlife."