|Hinduism Funeral Traditions
In the Transcendentalists in New England in the early 19th century through the
beatniks of the 1950s and the spiritual seekers of today, Hinduism has held a
fascination for many thousands of North Americans. Today the vast majority of
Hindus in the U.S., and Canada are immigrants from Asia, especially from India.
Also it is said that there is not a founder or common creed or doctrine of Hinduism.
|This topic focuses on all subjects, but
not limited to, topics dealing with the
religion of Hinduism. It also covers,
how the religion originated and it
expansion, funerals and mourning,
before the ceremonies, the appropriate
attire to wear, gifts, as well as, the
actual ceremony. It also includes, the
cremation, and finally the comforting
of the bereaved.
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|Comforting the Bereaved
It is appropriate to visit the home of the bereaved before the shraddha ("SHRAHD-
hah") ceremony which occurs 10 to 12 days after the death depending on the
family. During these mourning days, the immediate blood family is considered to
be in a state of extreme ritual impurity and bound by several rules. They must not
touch or go near the family shrine, must not enter a temple or any sacred place,
must not take part in any other religious functions (except funerals), must not recite
or read from the holy scriptures, must not visit other family members or friends,
must not attend social functions like marriages, parties etc.
On the day on which the death has occurred, the family must not cook as it is
considered to be inappropriate to light the family hearth when one of the family
member is being cremated, hence usually close family and friends will provide food
for the mourning family. Its is for the members of the Bhrahmin caste and 30 days
after death for members of the other castes. The ceremony is intended to liberate
the soul of the deceased for its ascent to heaven. The guest and visitors are
expected to bring fruit to the home of the bereaved. The shraddha is performed at
home and the guests are called by phone if they are invited. There is food served
but varies according to tradition.
The people return to work 10 to 30 days depending on the service of shraddha,
mourning dress, and the eating and behave austerely. It doesn’t have a name but
there a rituals that are performed by a priest in a temple for observing the
anniversary of the death.
|Funeral and Mourning
Hinduism teaches that even if the bodies die, atman ("AHTmahn") or the
individual soul, doesn't have a beginning or end. When a death occurs they may
pass into another reincarnation, which depends on the karma, or consequences of
one's actions, reaped from the life that just ended, and as the previous lives before
that. If though many lifetimes, the deceased has realized the true nature of reality,
the individuality of the soul will be lost upon death and it will become on with
Braman, the One, All-Encompassing soul.
Before the Ceremony
When people die in the Hindu religion a funeral is held within 24 hours. If you are
a none Hindu when hearing about a death you should call or visit the bereaved and
offer your condolences.
Men: Dress casually. No head covering is required.
Women: Dress casually. Not required are a head covering, clothing that covers the
arms and hems that reach below the knees. Open-toes shoes and modest jewelry
It is said you are supposed to wear white. Black isn’t appropriate.
When it comes to gifts it is appropriate to bring flowers personally to the home of
the deceased upon hearing of the death. When the person dies there is no such
thing as a funeral home. The person remains at the home until the day of the
cremation which is 24 hours after death. Then the flowers are placed at the feet of
the deceased. But donations are not customary.
The family wake up before sunrise and have a purifying bath. The main ceremony
involves a fire sacrifice , in which offerings are given to the ancestors and to other
gods, to ensure the deceased has a peaceful afterlife. The ceremony usually takes
place of cremation. It is normal for guests to arrive to the ceremony when it has
been called. The guests can sit wherever they wish. When a guest is late to the
ceremony there isn't a time where they cannot enter. It is said the bereaved family
is present before the ceremony and you don’t do traditional greeting, just offer
your condolences. Also there will always be a open casket and the guests are
expected to see the body.
The appropriate behavior when seeing the body is to look reverently upon the
body but do not touch the body. The people that give the ceremony would be a
priest or the senior member of the family. The books that are used during the
ceremony would be special books containing mantras for funeral services. Only
the priest use these during the ceremony.
The guest that are not Hindu do nothing but sit. The guests that are of different
faiths are more then welcome to participate in any moment of the ceremony if it
doesn’t affect their faith. It is not appropriate to take pictures nor flash. You can
not also use video cameras or tape recorders. And like said before there will be no
The guest can go to the cremation if they wish to. If you cant find the place of
cremation you would usually ask a family member for directions. What happens at
the cremation is the last food offering is symbolically made to the deceased and
then the body is cremated with flowers surrounding the body. The cremation
ceremony is called mukhagni ("moo-KAHG-nee"). Also the guests that are not
Hindu don’t participate, they just sit.