Hinduism is a religion practiced worldwide. With over a billion followers, it is unsurprising that there are many different funeral traditions within the faith.
If you have never attended a Hindu funeral, respecting the deceased’s culture and beliefs is vital. If you plan a Hindu funeral, ensure you are familiar with the various customs and etiquette to provide a meaningful and sensitive ceremony.
This brief introduction will discuss the essentials of Hindu funeral practices and what to expect. The topics we will cover include:
- What Are the Main Beliefs, Principles or Practices of Hinduism?
- What Are Hindu Funeral Rites?
- What Happens After a Hindu Funeral?
- What Is the Etiquette for a Hindu Funeral?
What Are the Main Beliefs, Principles or Practices of Hinduism?
Reincarnation forms the basis for all Hindu funeral traditions.
Hindus believe the soul reincarnates several times (samsara) and that each death brings them closer to salvation (moksha). Once the soul reaches moksha, it meets with Brahman, the supreme life force.
Hindus view the body as a shell temporarily housing the soul. Once the soul has left the body, it is of no use and the quickest way to release it is through cremation. Following a
death, cremation is carried out as soon as possible.
What Are Hindu Funeral Rites?
A Hindu priest, also called a Pandit, officiates the funeral rites. In addition, he leads the family and other mourners in various Hindu death rituals.
The body is bathed and anointed with oils in preparation. After, the deceased is dressed in new clothes or a white sheet. A lamp is placed near the head, or water is sprinkled on the body.
Mourners often leave rice balls or flowers near the casket while singing hymns or reciting mantras.
What Happens at a Hindu Funeral
A Hindu Funeral Ceremony includes three parts:
Visitation/Wake takes place in the family home immediately after a person dies. The visitation allows family and friends to pay their respects and express condolences to the bereaved. Guests view the open casket. The family recites funeral prayers and hymns.
Cremation takes place within 24 to 48 hours. First, the body is moved to the crematory. As the family gathers around the body, a Hindu priest and senior family members conduct the ceremony (mukhagni). Then, mourners scatter the ashes over a sacred body of water or a significant location.
The Shraddha Ceremony, a rite of remembrance for the deceased, is held on the 13th day after death and the annual death anniversary.
What Is the Etiquette for a Hindu Funeral?
Dress code: Hindu funeral etiquette may require attendees to wear conservative, white clothing. But in more modern settings, you may see contemporary dress. Wearing black is not advised. Women should cover their arms and knees.
Gifts: You do not need to bring a gift. If you want to send flowers to the family, Lotus or yellow and white chrysanthemums are suitable. Please send them to the family’s home, not the funeral parlour.
Attendance: During the wake, you should expect to view the body, express condolences and take your seat. Non-Hindus are expected to stay quiet during the ceremony but can participate in the mantras if they wish. Touching of the body is prohibited.
Non-Hindus do not attend the cremation ceremony. You should clarify mourners’ expectations if you are not sure. Shraddha is usually only open to those with an invitation.
Duration: The service itself should last no longer than 30 minutes.
Cosmopolitan Funeral Services: Hindu Funeral Directors
At Cosmopolitan Funeral Services, we understand that losing a loved one is difficult. However, if you need to arrange a Hindu funeral that respects your traditions and beliefs, we can help.
We have deep expertise, enough to guide you through the process, ensuring everything is in order. We can also provide support and advice on other aspects of the funeral, such as pre-planning or financial planning.
If you want to speak to one of our funeral directors, please call 1300 211 010.