Hindu Funeral Ceremonies

by M-Rebeiro

The funeral pyres in the form of a lemu or bull are set on fire in one part of a Hindu cremation ceremony.

Hindu funeral traditions are heavily rooted in the idea of reincarnation, with the idea that death is merely a stepping stone to reaching Nirvana. While this premise is the general case, there are many specific regional traditions that vary over the large Hindu following.

Preparation of the body begins by placing the body on the floor with the head pointing North, the direction of the dead. An oil lamp is burned next to the body for a period of 3 days. The body at this stage is deemed impure and is handled very lightly. After this period, the body is washed, clothed and sometimes adorned with jewels. Depending on their Lordly devotion, they will have either bhasma (sacred ash, for followers of Shiva) or sandalwood paste (for followers of Vishnu) applied to their forehead.

The ceremony typically involves a cremation that is said to release the spirit of the dead. The cremation site is known as “Shmashana” and is typically located near a body of moving water like a river. Immediately after this ceremony, the family is required to bathe to remove any impurities brought on by the ritual.

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