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Complete Guide of Hindu Funeral Rituals and Their Meaning

Hinduism is the third-largest religion in the world followed by over a billion people worldwide. Hinduism believes in the almighty source of power, the god, to be within every living and non-living object under the sun. According to Hindu Shastra, the purpose of life is to be aware of this divine essence and get the good going on within yourself. The Hindu Dharma originated in India and only Indians were to be called Hindu. But, nowadays there are many counties worldwide that follow Hinduism, each with slightly different beliefs and rituals.
As there are many different beliefs about the Hindu lifestyle and faith throughout the world, there are also many different rituals that are to be followed for death and funeral. Here is a complete guide to the different Death Rituals in Hinduism.

Hindu Beliefs about Death & Karma

The Hindu faith is centered around rebirth: the belief is that when someone dies, only their body dies and the soul is immortal. Thus, it is reborn in a different form or a different body until it settles upon its true nature and gets the Moksha. The process of Moksha can take many lifetimes, and by completing each life, the soul moves closer to Brahma. 

Also, Hindu dharma believes very strongly and breathes through the moral of Karma Bandhan. This means that whatever deeds are done by your soul and body impact not only your this lifeline but also the next one.

Why do Hindus give Agni Daan(Cremation)?

Hindu Dharma believes that the physical body is made of 5 Maha Tatva, (water, space, earth, fire, and air) and should be mended in the same when the purpose of the body is fulfilled. Hindus choose to cremate their loved ones as they believe it’s the quickest way to release the soul, help with reincarnation, and mend the body with fire and air. Historically, Hindu cremations would take place on the River side of the Ganga, India, and the family would carry the casket to the crematorium site. But, over time the importance of native places got heavier and nowadays Hindus are cremating their lost loved ones locally or around their native place itself. Most funeral service providers can help you through the planning and executing of the traditions and rituals of Hindu cremation and funeral.

What are Hindu funeral rites?

Traditionally, Hindu funeral rites take the form of different Poojans followed by chants or mantras which are mostly overseen by an officiant, the eldest son of the bereaved. They will gather family and friends and lead them in the various death rituals in Hinduism

These include:

  • They wash the body with ghee, honey, milk, raw sugar, and curd.
  • They pour essential oils on the head of the deceased. 
  • They place the deceased’s palms in a position of prayer tying the big toes together
  • They make the deceased’s body wear smart clothes. (if the deceased is a married woman they make her wear a red saree)
  • They Place a garland of flowers and ‘pinda’ (rice balls) around their loved ones.
  • They put a Shudhdha Ghee lamp near the head and sprinkle some water on the body.

After how long the Funeral should be arranged after death?

According to Hindu last rites, the body should remain at home until cremation – this is usually within 24 hours of the death. But, sometimes the important people to the deceased are far away and it takes time to gather them. In such situations, they use freezer boxes to keep the dead body from decaying. It is customary for all the people from the deceased and their near ones circle to visit the deceased home to offer their respect to the deceased and sympathy to the family.

What exactly happens at a Hindu Funeral?

The casket (usually open casket) is carried into the crematorium ground, feet first, by the male of the house. During this mourners recite prayers (usually Raam Naam). An open casket displays the Parthiv body of the deceased so the guests can see them for one last time. 

This ritual should be done with utmost dignity and respect. No one is considered pure enough to directly touch the person who had just died. 

A Hindu priest and mostly the eldest son conduct the cremation ceremony (‘Mukhagni’).

According to Garud Puran the Mukhgani is to be given by the eldest kid of the deceased (majorly, it is to be given by the son as women are more emotional), but over time patriarchy did the thing and only male people were allowed for the Mukhagni. However, now people understand things, and women are also allowed to do the ritual rightfully.
The day after a Hindu funeral, the ashes are scattered over a sacred body of water or a place of importance to the deceased traditionally people used to go to the Ganga river(which is considered the purest form of water) for the same but now due to lack of time everyone can not follow the custom.

What to wear to a Hindu funeral?

Majorly around the globe black is the funeral color but in Hindu Dharma, it is considered inappropriate. Instead, funeral etiquette says that all the mourners, both male, and female, should dress in moderately covered white clothes. White color is known as the color of peace and respect and wearing a modest white dress also counts as showing respect. Mostly, head covering is not required but some Hindus follow that custom.

What are Post funeral Rituals in Hinduism?

Traditionally, the Hindu mourning period ranges from 4 to 15 days. Auspicious last days of funerals are Chotha, Chattha, Nom, Tervi, or Chaudvi according to different castes. Throughout their respective times of funerals, families may display a picture of their lost loved one, adorned with a garland of flowers or sandalwood, somewhere in their house. All the visitors supposed to come and show their respects and sympathy are also welcome during this period.

On the last day of grieving, there is a function held, followed by a Pooja and feast for all the dears and nears. Everyone invited is obliged to visit and take prasad. On the last day, some sweet dishes are made as a sign of ending the mourning period. If the deceased is considerably old and was in pain for much time, their moksha is celebrated pretty nicely as they might not have any regrets and have lived fully.

 

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