Funeral Rites

Amongst orthodox Hindus, there are many variations of the funeral rites, depending on region and social stratum. A religious minded person approaching death would wish to pass his last moments on earth in the holy city Varanasi on the banks of the sacred Ganga river as it is said that a person dying on its banks will be delivered from all sins. For a ordinary Hindu funeral the dead body is bathed with Ganga water, perfumed, wrapped in white cloth (red for women) and carried to the cremation site on a wooden stretcher-like structure, to the accompaniment of the chanting of the words ‘Ram Nam Satya Hal’ (Rama is Truth). In the case of some kings, feudal lords and sadhus, the body is taken out on the ‘stretcher’ in a sitting

The nearest relation, normally the eldest son lights the funeral pyre. This is important as whoever lights the pyre is considered the legal heir. Vedic verses are chanted during the cremation by the priest and the next day the ashes are collected and taken to Haridwar, the headwaters of the Ganga, and immersed in the holy water there. In the days following the cremation a mourning period of approximately twelve days is observed, during which time the sitting room is cleared of furniture and the relatives and visitors have to sit on the floor. This is the time for friends and relatives to pay a condolence visit:

Every year certain days are set aside during which the family members must remember their dead ancestors and relatives and say prayers for the peace of their souls. This is called shraadh.

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