Funeral Traditions in Nepal

by K-Dean

The holy river Bagmati at Pashupatinath near Kathmandu where cremations take place.

In Nepal the population consists of either Hindus or Buddhists. They believe in reincarnation, and that one’s actions in life will grant him or her a higher rebirth.

In Hindu tradition, the dead are cremated on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. It is the ultimate wish of a Hindu to be cremated along the river bank. The body must be dipped into the river three times before cremation. The chief mourner, who is usually the first son of the deceased, will light the funeral pyre and take a bath in the holy river water immediately after the cremation. Relatives of the deceased also join in the funeral procession by bathing in the river or by sprinkling the holy water on their bodies after the cremation.

The Bagmati River purifies the family both spiritually and physically. Hindus prefer to gather the ashes and put them in an urn so they can be disposed of in a special year end ceremony. After the cremation, family members begin an 11 day mourning period, where they a are prohibited from eating certain vegetables and meat. They are only allowed to wear white clothes and must not wear anything made of leather, like belts, watches with leather straps or shoes. On the 10th day, a Hindu priest will set up a ceremony where gods and goddesses are invoked and worshiped in the name of the deceased. On the 11th day family members are allowed to return to their normal lifestyle.

Some Buddhists also cremate bodies, while others perform sky burials, in which a dead body is cut up and left at sacred sites for vultures to eat. Buddhists believe the soul is immortal and that the body is only a shell to hold the spirit. They believe it is better for other creature to benefit from the body, rather then letting it rot.

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