Hindu Funeral
Traditional Hindu Funerals
Hindu Funerals
In Hindu funerals, following death, the body is placed on the floor with the head pointing towards the North (considered the direction of the dead). An oil lamp is lit and placed near the body where it burns continuously for the first three days. At this stage, the dead body is considered to be symbol of great impurity, therefore miminal physical contact must be maintained.

Hindu Funerals: Preparing the Body
After the three day period, the body is bathed in purified water and dressed in new clothes. If the deceased was a male or widow, the clothing will usually be white. If the deceased was a married women whose spouse is still living or a young unmarried girl, the body will be dressed in either red or yellow. Depending upon whether the deceased was a worshipper of Lord Shiva (Saivites) or Lord Vishnu (Vaishnava), either sacred ash (bhasma) or sandalwood paste will be applied on the forehead of the deceased. A few drops of the holy Ganges water may be put into the mouth so that the soul may attain liberation, while a few leaves of the holy basil (tulsi) are placed on the right side of the dead body. The body then may be adorned with jewels, and placed lying on a stretcher, with the head pointing towards the South. At times, the the body may also be kept in a sitting position. The stretcher and body are then adorned with different flowers including roses, jasmine, and marigolds. Thereafter, the close relatives of the deceased person carry the stretcher on their shoulders to the cremation site. If it is located at a distance, the stretcher is placed on a cart pulled by animals or a vehicle.

Hindu Funerals: The Ceremony
Hindu Funerals
The cremation site is called Shmashana (in Sanskrit), and traditionally, it is located near a river. At the site, a pyre is prepared and the corpse is laid on it with the feet facing southwards in order for it to walk in the direction of the dead. Any jewelry worn is removed and the the chief mourner, usually the eldest son, walks around the pyre three times keeping the body to his left. While walking, he sprinkles water and sometimes ghee onto the pyre from a vessel. He then sets the pyre alight with a torch of flame. The beginning of the cremation starts the traditional mourning period, lasting until the morning of the 13th day after death. While the body burns, the mourners return home. The process of burning will last for a few hours.

Hindu Funerals: Period of Mourning
During the period of mourning, the decease's family are bounded by the rules and regulations of ritual impurity one of which is immediately following the cremation ceremony, the entire family is expected to bath. One or two days after the funeral, the chief mourner will return to the cremation site and collect and place the mortal remains in an urn. The remains are then immersed in a river. Many who can afford to perform this rite of immersion choose to have it performed at such places as Varanasi, Haridwar, Allahabad, Srirangam and Kanya Kumari.

Hindu Funerals: The Preta-Karma
The preta-karma is an important aspect of Hindu funeral rites, and its objective is to facilitate the migration of the soul of the dead person from the status of a preta (a ghost or spirit) to the abode of the ancestors (the Pitrs). It is believed that if this stage of funeral rites is not performed or performed incorrectly, the spirit of the dead person shall become a ghost (bhuta). The rites generally last for ten or eleven days, at the end of which the preta is believed to join the abode of the ancestors. Thereafter, they are worshipped during the 'sraddha' ceremonies.

Hindu Funerals: Death in Other Countries
If a person dies in a different country, in a war, or drowns, or in any other manner that his body cannot be retrieved for the antyesti, the funeral rites may be performed without the dead body, and similar procedures are followed had the dead body been available. If such a person appears (that is, he has in fact not died), then "resurrection" rituals are mandatory before his being admitted to the world of the living.

Preparation Steps:

Preparing a body for a Hindu funeral in the appropriate way will help ease the deceased's transition into the next life. Although there is no specific time frame for cremating the body, the process should be completed as quickly as possible and preferably on the same day as the death. In India, the body will stay in the home for a time as the family mourns, but in North America the body is typically removed immediately.

ITEMS YOU WILL NEED
  • Funeral clothing
  • Sandalwood paste
  • Sacred ash
  • Water from the Ganges
  • Basil leaves
  • Jewels
  • Flowers
  • Rice
  • Milk
1. Prayers, Chantings, Hymns: It is customary for those gathered to chant hymns or
bhajans such as
Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram
Ram-Ram-Ram-Ram-Ram-Ram-Ram, Ram-Ram-Ram-Ram-Ram-Sita-Ram
Ram Nam satya hai (pal bearers)
Ram bolo bhai Ram (pal bearers)
Chidananda roopah Sivoham Sivoham
One may also read from Chapter 2 or Chapter 15 of Bhagvat Gita
2. Preparation
1.1 Bathing: The body is bathed by the eldest son (or the closest relative) and anointed
with chandan (sandalwood paste). Some devotees may prefer to place vibhuti (holy ash)
on the forehead.
2.2 Clothing: The body is dressed in as little as "langoth" and a white sheet to cover the
body for males (depicting that we came with nothing and leave with nothing), or clean while
clothes. A married woman is dressed in colorful sari and decked with jewelry, while a
widow is dressed in a white sari. Any other dress can be used depending on the wishes of
the deceased or close relative who is intimate with what the deceased person would have
preferred.
Casket: Although there is no requirement for a casket in Hindu religion, a casket is
required by law in North America to contain the body. In India, the body is laid on a frame
made out of two long pieces and several short pieces of wood (such as bamboo), tied
together with a rope at the joints to make a sturdy frame. For ease, an ordinary casket
can be used depending on ones preferences.

5. Offer rice and milk to the Brahman priests. This is done as an offering to the priests who will perform ritual chants and mantras over the body. After this, take the body to the funeral site. Individuals in India often desire to be cremated on the banks of the Ganges. However, funerals are sometimes practiced on the banks of other rivers when the individual dies abroad.

TIP
If an individual was unmarried at the time of death, that person can be buried instead of cremated.

WARNING
In the Hindu faith a body should be untouched as much as possible since it is a source of impurity.

Disposal of remains: Some people prefer to take the ashes to India for disposal. In such a
case, the Funeral home will keep the ashes for a few months. The remains are never
brought home.

Visitation: Because the body is not available for viewing to relatives and friends, a final
viewing can be arranged to view the body. This can be done either on a separate day or
time, or combined with the time of cremation itself. One must bear in mind the wishes of
the deceased on whether or not to have a visitation. A visitation is also sometimes
referred to as Wake. Obviously, it costs additional amount to have the body available on a
separate day for viewing depending on the number of hours and size of the facility
required.
• Which Hymns (e.g. Om Namah Shivaya, Gayatri Mantra, Ram- ram, etc,) Prayers, scripture passage(s) or
music selections/chanting will be part of the service. (The words of special hymns ,chants, prayers
should be photcopied for those attending)
• Who will give the eulogy (if any) or say a few words during the service?
• Whether the family or the funeral home personnel will arrange for pallbearers.
• Whether the family or the funeral home will bathe the body?
The body is normally cleaned, embalmed and otherwise prepared by the Funeral Home to prevent
decay of the flesh, and stored in refrigerated vaults. Hindu custom is to bathe the body (with yogurt,
oil, soap?) and dress it in fresh clean (new?) white clothes. (the eldest son is expected to bathe the
body) Jewelry may be removed from the body, if the family so wishes.
Please note that as the body swells and stiffens, it is easier if the clothes are of a larger size than
normal and are slit at the back.
• To bring clothing for the deceased
• If display boards and stands for pictures, flowers, wreaths, etc. will be required for the Visitation Room?
• To select a casket; whether the casket will be open for family and/or friends?
• To select a Crematorium location and an Urn for the ashes.
• Whether you wish to rent a Funeral Home Limousine to transport family members to the Cremation
Grounds.

        
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