Funeral Traditions in Thailand

by M-Rebeiro

A Thai funeral pyre. Open air cremations in the Western world have been subjected to strict ruling since the early 1900s.

Thai funeral customs have a largely Buddhist basis since Thailand has primarily been a Buddhist country for a long time. It is estimated that its spread into the country was because of its ideas of death, because death (along with all of existence) is suffering yet it is universal, and not to be taken in sadness. Funerals are a celebration of liberation.

When someone dies, the corpse is kept for 7 days before cremation, a period of time in which prayer over the body is observed. Six of the seven days visits are made by monks, engaging in evening prayer by the body. Immediately after death family members engage in a ceremonial hand cleansing, each taking turn to pour water from a jug over the hands of others. At the service, an older monk may be present, but not to help conduct the service. This is a sign of a high rank in Thai culture. The coffin is adorned with light garlands, flowers, and a picture of the deceased. After prayer, the corpse is burned to release the spirit, which continues onto the next stage of the after life.

Traditional Thai music is typically played, with an orchestra rented for higher-profile funerals. It is encouraged that the atmosphere is light, with food offered to every guest and chatter taking place throughout the event.

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