The burning of dead body for final disposition is called Cremation. Hinduism and Jainism prescribe cremation. In ancient time cremation was carried out with wood, especially with sandal wood. Generally crematorium was built on the bank of rivers. Nowadays cremation is carried out with a closed furnace, at a crematorium.
Why do Hindus cremate their dead?
In Hinduism, the basic ethos is that God is within each living being and the purpose of life is to become aware of this divine essence. Hindus believe in reincarnation; the belief that when someone dies, the soul is reborn as a different form.
Although the physical body dies, their soul remains and continues to recycle until it settles upon its true nature. This can take many lifetimes, and with each death they strive to move closer to Brahman the Hindu God. We believe that your actions or Karma in this life will influence your next life.
What happens after burning the dead body?
After death, the outer flesh, the physical body serves no purpose and the quickest way to release the soul & help in the re-incarnation process is to burn the body.
Historically, Hindu cremations would take place on the holy river Ganges, India, and the family would carry the casket to the crematorium site. However, these days Hindus are cremated locally, but very often, the ashes still taken to the Ganges.
In Hinduism, all material offerings are made to Agni or Lord of Fire, who also acts as the purifier. The physical body is offered to him only during the cremation.
Hindus believe that the body is made up of the five elements namely: earth, water, fire, air and space. By burning, you return the five physical elements to their source.
What are Hindu funeral rites?
The last rites are called Antimasanskar, Hindu funeral rites take the form of chants or mantras usually led by a Hindu priest or the eldest son of the bereaved. This is done to encourage the soul to leave the physical body & move forward in its spiritual journey.
They will gather the family and friends and lead them in the various Hindu death rituals. These include:
- Washing the body with ghee, honey, milk, and yoghurt
- A tilak of turmeric is put on the head of the deceased
- The palms are put in a position of prayer &the big toes tied together
- Traditionally, a white sheet was used to cover the body, but nowadays, smart clothes are put on the deceased.
- A garland of flowers is placed around their neck
- A lamp or diya is placed near the head
- Water is sprinkled water on the body
According to Hindu death rituals, the body should remain at the home until cremation – this is usually within 24 hours of the death. It is customary for family and friends to visit the home of the bereaved to offer their final respects.
What happens at a Hindu funeral?
The casket is carried into the crematorium, feet first, by male members of the family, while mourners recite prayers. An open casket displays the deceased, and guests may view the body& pay their last respects without touching the body. A Hindu priest conducts the cremation ceremony, ‘mukhagni’
In olden times, only men used to attend the cremation, but nowadays, women are also present. The ashes are then collected in an urn, which are then scattered in water. Both men & women should wear a modest plain white attire.
What happens after a Hindu funeral?
Traditionally, the Hindu mourning period ranges from 10 to 30 days. Throughout this time, families may display a picture of their loved one, adorned with a garland of flowers, somewhere in their house. Visitors are also welcome during this period.
On the 13th day of mourning, it’s common for the grieving family to hold a ceremony, where they perform final rituals to help bring peace to the departed soul & ease the grieving of the relatives. It is believed that the soul lingers around his family for about 13 days.
A haven or puja is performed and to family pray to the soul of the dead, breaking all ties of this world to go back peacefully to the Astra world, until he is reborn according to his karma.
Food is served to the Brahmins & the less privileged. On the first anniversary of the death, the family host a memorial event that honors the life of their loved one.
Cremation is also practiced by other faiths, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, and is becoming popular amongst Christians too. It has a smaller impact on the environment. Recent figures show cremations are chosen by 35% in the US, 72% in the UK, 99.9% in Japan.