Hindu funeral rituals are based around the belief that the human soul is reincarnated. Whilst there are different types of Hinduism, Hindu funerals typically follow the same rites and traditions. Find out how to plan a Hindu funeral and get information on rites, rituals and etiquette below.
Hindu funeral rituals
Hindu funeral rites are known as Antyeshti, translated as “the last sacrifice”. The aim of a Hindu funeral is for the person who has died to attain moksha: the state of freedom and liberation, where the soul is absorbed into Brahman. Hindus believe in Karma, where the actions of a person during their life will have consequences for their soul.
Hindus prefer cremation over burial and a small funeral service or wake is usually held before the cremation.
What happens before a Hindu funeral service?
After the death of a loved one, a family member should contact a funeral director and a Hindu priest in order to perform the Antyeshti. Our funeral directors will be able to help you to find a Hindu friendly funeral home and crematorium.
The body of the person who has died should remain at home before it is taken to the crematorium. Here they will be washed and displayed in a simple open casket. Flowers are placed at their feet and they wear a necklace of flowers or wooden beads. A mark of sandalwood (for males) or turmeric (for females) may be placed on their forehead.
As part of the Hindu funeral rites, it is important that the body of the person who has died is not touched unless absolutely necessary. It is usually a member of the family who washes and prepares the body of their loved one.
How long after death is a Hindu funeral?
A Hindu funeral should take place as soon as possible after the death. As cremations usually take place within 24 hours of the person’s death, the ritual of viewing the body begins almost immediately and does not last very long.
What is a Hindu funeral service like?
The funeral service, or wake, takes place in the family home before the cremation. Visitors will view the body whilst the family say Hindu funeral prayers, including mantras and hymns.
Some people may only have family and close friends at the viewing.
Depending on the sect of Hinduism, there may be other funeral rituals performed during the ceremony.
What happens at a Hindu cremation?
Traditionally almost all Hindus are cremated, except young children who are buried. The casket should be transported to the place of cremation as soon as possible, with the eldest male in the family accompanying it.
The casket should be carried into the crematorium feet first, whilst prayers are recited. A Hindu priest and the elder men of the family will lead the funeral prayers.
What do you say at a Hindu funeral?
Upon hearing of the death, mourners may like to visit the family of the bereaved to offer their condolences.
Once the body has been viewed, it is polite to sit quietly whilst the family recite the mantras and funeral prayers.
Non-Hindus are usually welcome to participate in the ceremony, but not expected to do so.
What should I wear to a Hindu funeral?
White is the traditional colour to wear at a Hindu funeral. You should avoid wearing black. Women are expected to dress conservatively, covering their chest, knees and shoulders. Open toe shoes are acceptable, as is simple jewellery.
Can I send flowers to a Hindu funeral?
Hindu funeral flowers are a common tradition, but they should be sent to the family or funeral director before the service.
What happens after a Hindu funeral service?
Immediately after the service, family members will wash and change clothes before a meal.
For Hindus in India, the ashes of the person who has died would be scattered in the River Ganges. Many Indians in the UK choose to scatter the ashes of a loved one in a local river, or at a place of meaning to the family.
Typically, the mourning period lasts for 13 days after a Hindu funeral. A photo of the person who has died is placed in the family home, alongside a garland of flowers. Visitors are welcomed in to take part in the Hindu funeral rituals, which helps the soul to reincarnate.
During the mourning period, the family will stay at home to pray, rather than visiting the temple.
On the first anniversary of the death, the family will hold a memorial event to celebrate their loved one’s life.
How much does a Hindu funeral cost?
The cost of a Hindu funeral will depend on the area that you live in.
At Co-op Funeralcare, we’re experienced in arranging funerals for all, regardless of faith, religion or culture. Speak to a funeral director today to get more information about costs of Hindu funerals in your area.
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