Westcoast Memorials at Sea
A Hindu undergoes 16 rituals during their lifetime, like Naming ceremony, Thread ceremony: beginning of student life, Marriage, etc., and the last being cremation. Cremation is referred to as antim-sanskara, literally meaning “the last rites.”
Most Hindus choose to dispose of a person’s body through cremation — usually within a day of the death. In Hinduism, death applies only to the physical body; there is no death of the soul. Hindus don’t believe in the resurrection of the material body. They believe that upon death, the soul, which truly represented the person, has departed or detached. The body has no significance and, therefore, no attempt is made to preserve it. While some Hindus do bury their dead, the most common practice is to cremate the body, collect the ashes, and on the fourth day, disperse the ashes in a sacred body of water or other place of importance to the deceased person.
Hindu funeral rites will vary among families and locations, but here are some common customs:
  • Mourners at a Hindu funeral wear simple, white, casual clothes. Dress down, not up.
  • A priest or oldest son (or other male) of the family preside at the service.
  • You’ll hear prayers and hymns
  • You’ll see lots of flowers on the body. You can also send flowers to the family or funeral home before the service — don’t bring the flowers with you to the funeral. Sending food is inappropriate.
  • The casket will be open, and all mourners are expected to quietly view it.
Many families celebrate the departed life on the twelfth or thirteenth day after the funeral. A feast marks appreciation for the life of the deceased and the day when the soul completes its travels through a ghost world and reaches the land of the ancestors. According to Hindu scripture (called the Bhagavad Gita), the soul is a spirit that a sword cannot pierce, the fire cannot burn, the water cannot melt, and the air cannot dry. The soul is free, unbounded, holy, pure, and perfect. The Hindu’s goal is to avoid rebirth (reincarnation) so that the individual soul merges with the Supreme Soul and achieves moksha (liberation).
Preparation of the Deceased : The body of the deceased Sikh is bathed and attired in clean clothing. The hair is covered with a turban or traditional scarf as usually worn by the individual who has passed away. The karkars, or five articles of faith worn by a Sikh in life, remain with the body in death. They include:
  • Kachhera, an undergarment.
  • Kanga, a wooden comb.
  • Kara, a steel or iron bracelet.
  • Kes, uncut hair (and beard).
  • Kirpan, a short sword.
Cremation: In Sikhism cremation is the usual method for disposal of remains regardless of the age of the deceased. In many parts of the world a Sikhism funeral involves an open air funeral pyre. In the United States where there is no provision for such proceedings, cremation takes place in a crematory at a mortuary, also called a funeral home. The crematory may open directly to a room where funeral services are held, or it may be in a separate location on the premises of the mortuary.
Disposal of Ashes: The funeral home releases the cremated remains of the deceased to the family. Sikhism recommends that the ashes of the deceased be buried in the earth scattered over or immersed in flowing water such as a river or sea.