While the current world standard of post-mortem treatment is a ground burial of the deceased, cremation is growing more popular. In our next few blogs, I would like to be a little more informative in regards to how cremation is viewed by different religions around the world. I would like to begin with the Hindu viewpoint on cremation.
Hindu Cremation Traditions
Hindus have a history of using cremation as the standard technique of post-mortem body care. Traditionally, all Hindus are cremated, except for babies, children, and saints. Generally, and like many other religions around the world, the Hindus believe in this life as well as a life after death, otherwise known as a samsara, or rebirth. They believe that at the end of each life, they are reincarnated and given another life. In addition, they also believe that they have lived many lives before they were given the life in their human body. Carnate, meaning “of flesh” describes a Hindu being given their first body. Reincarnate, meaning “reenter the flesh” describes each resurrection of a Hindu spirit back into a body.
Hindus and Reincarnation
Hindu people believe in reincarnation until they reach moksha, the transcendent state of salvation. This is similar to heaven in Christian religions. Once this is reached, the soul is absorbed into Brahman, a godly force of ultimate reality.
The Hindu Rituals before Death
When death is imminent, the Hindu ritual begins.
- A priest is contacted and the family comes together to surround the dying family member.
- Those present sing mantras- words and sounds that help bring the body to a state of meditation- as the family member passes on.
- Once death has occurred, the family members give space to the body, as unnecessary touching of the body is seen as dirty and impure.
The Hindu Rituals After Death
- The body is taken to a funeral home where it is washed and prepared for cremation.
- Generally, family members and close friends come together and wash the body before it is taken by funeral home where it is prepared for cremation. For the washing, the body is placed facing southward, and an oil lamp is set above the head of the deceased with a picture of the person’s favorite diety. The body is then given an abhisegam, or a holy bath. For the abhisegam, the body is traditionally washed in a combination of clarified butter, milk, yogurt, and honey. Mantras are generally recited during the washing ritual.
- After the body has been washed, Hindus perform a small wake to send off the spirit into moksha or its next level of reincarnation. Hindu wakes are generally very modest. The body is placed into a simple casket. Herbs and flowers may be placed in the casket and mantras are recited by those in attendance.
- After the wake is finished, the body is then taken from the casket and prepared for cremation.
- Once the body reaches where the cremation will take place (in the Unites States it is always a crematory, but it can be in other locations around the world), the body is removed and is taken on a stretcher to the actual cremation site.
- The body is positioned so that the feet face southward. The Hindu relatives in attendance perform a ritualistic circling of the body, after which the body is then placed into the incinerator, and the attending party returns home.
Hindu Rituals after Cremation
- The day after cremation, a family member will return to obtain the ashes. These are then brought home and are kept until they are dispersed by the family.
- Traditionally, Hindus have been known to spread their ashes in the Ganges River in India. Because this is not available to everyone, it has become acceptable for family members to disperse the ashes of the deceased in another river.
- This marks the end of the cremation ritual and the family then spends up to 13 days mourning the loss of the deceased.
Dallas Area Cremation
Please feel free to call Martin Oaks if you have any questions about cremation.