When organising a Hindu Funeral there are traditions to follow. Let us help you plan a stress-free Hindu funeral ceremony and Hindu cremation in the UK
Planning an Indian Funeral or a Hindu Funeral: 8 Simple Points to Help You Get it Done
Whether attending or organising a Hindu funeral, it is helpful to understand a bit about the faith. The Hindu religion originated in India, and has over a billion followers throughout the world. There are many different denominations, and while the traditions and customs may vary, there is a central common belief in the reincarnation of the soul. The soul is said to travel through multiple cycles of life and death, until reaching a liberated state. This state of peace and oneness is known as Nirvana.
What beliefs do Hindus hold about death?
Indian Funerals are about mourning the loss of a loved one, yet the ceremonies can also be joyful and hopeful. The Hindu life after death belief is that one should humbly celebrate the soul of a loved incarnating into the next life. Ultimately, the soul has moved one step closer to achieving Nirvana.
What is a Hindu Funeral?
A Hindu Funeral is an opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one, and grant the person’s soul safe passage from this life into the next. To help this transition, Hindu funeral rituals prefer cremation to a burial ceremony. This is because the fire is seen to free the soul from the body. The flames also represent Brahma, the Hindu god of creation.
Most Indian Funerals will have three main parts:
- a wake or funeral in the family home
- a Hindu cremation ceremony
- a memorial ceremony ten days after death
How do you plan a Hindu funeral in the UK?
Planning a traditional Indian Funeral or Hindu Funeral in the UK can be a relatively simple process.
Some key Hindu funeral rites are:
- the deceased is washed and prepared by the family, or funeral home
- a viewing or wake is held as soon as possible after death
- there is a simple casket present, around which family and mourners will chant and pray
- a Hindu cremation will then follow, known as “Mukhagni”
- After ten days a memorial ceremony or “Shraddha” is held for the deceased
Most funeral directors in the UK, including Fenix Funeral Directors, can assist you in planning a funeral service that reflects and honours the Hindu death rituals.
How long after death is a funeral held?
Hindu funerals and cremation ceremonies usually take place within 24 hours of death. If this is the case, it is not necessary for the body be embalmed. However, in the UK this is not always possible. If you are unable to hold the funeral so soon after death, speak to your mortician about the best embalming and preparation options.
What happens at a Hindu Funeral?
There are several stages to a traditional Indian Funeral, and where possible, these steps are followed for Hindu Funerals in the UK:
Hindu funerals usually start with a simple viewing ceremony at the family home or temple. This funeral ceremony is around 30 minutes long and is traditionally led by a Hindu priest. Hindu funeral prayers, mantras and hymns are recited by family members and mourners.
Some features of a Hindu ceremony are:
- the deceased is displayed in a simple casket, decorated with flowers
- a garland of flowers of a necklace of wooden beads is draped around the deceased’s neck
- their hands will be crossed in prayer, and they may have flowers placed at their feet
- if the deceased was a woman, she would have turmeric placed on her forehead
- if she was married and died before her husband, she would be dressed in a red bridal sari
- if she was unmarried or died a widow, she would be dressed in white or pale colours
- a deceased man would be dressed in white, traditional Indian clothes
- ash wood or sandalwood would be smeared onto his forehead
- at the end of the ceremony, rice balls, or ‘pinda’ may be placed close to the loved one
Keep in mind that Hindu funeral rituals dictate that the body should only be touched when absolutely necessary.
After the viewing ceremony, the casket is traditionally carried in a procession to the Hindu cremation site, and past any places of significance to the deceased. Prayers are said at any significant sites, and at the entrance to the cremation site.
In the UK, the casket will more likely be transported in a hearse or transportation vehicle to the crematorium. Your funeral director should assist you in planning the transportation of the deceased.
The Hindu Cremation
At the crematorium, the eldest son or priest may preside over the cremation ceremony. In Hindu death rituals, cremation is an important part of the funeral rites. The fire is seen to free the soul from the physical body, while the flames represent Brahma, the Hindu god of creation.
What are the Hindu funeral rites and traditions?
At the viewing, the body is displayed in a simple casket, decorated with flowers, garlands, sandalwood or turmeric. The mourners will recite Hindu funeral prayers, scriptures from the Vedas or Bhagavad Gita.
Hindu rituals dictate that the eldest son, or chief mourner, will light kindling and circle the deceased. He will pray for the wellbeing of the soul as it transitions from this life, leaving the physical body behind.
A priest may then speak about Hindu beliefs regarding death and reincarnation, providing comfort to the grieving family.
Traditionally, a eulogy is not recited for the deceased. However, in the UK some Hindu Funerals do have eulogies read.
What is the etiquette at a Hindu Funeral?
Hindu funerals are an opportunity for mourners to say goodbye and pay their respects to the deceased. There is also an element of hope as family and friends wish the soul of the departed well on the journey from this life into the next.
Mourners of other religions are welcome to attend the ceremony. As a guest, you may respectfully view the deceased, taking care not to touch the person who has died. The Hindu funeral prayers are reserved for followers of the Hindu faith, other guests may quietly sit and observe the Hindu rituals.
What to wear to a Hindu Funeral?
At an Indian Funeral mourners should wear white or light colours. White is seen as the colour of purity. This represents the purity of the deceased’s soul and their reincarnation. For this reason, it is NOT appropriate to wear black to a Hindu Funeral. Women are asked to dress modestly, covering their arms, chest and knees.
At a Hindu funeral, both men and women should wear:
- simple, loose-fitting, modest clothes as a sign of humility
- white or light colours as a sign of respect for the purity of the deceased’s soul
- no jewellery or flashy makeup: calling attention to oneself is not considered appropriate
What are the traditions around Hindu Funeral Flowers?
The deceased is usually wrapped in a garland of flowers. These are often lotus flowers. The reason for this is that lotus flowers grow out of mud, so they symbolise the beauty that can come from humble beginnings. Lotus flowers also represent triumph over pain or adversity. As such, they are represent reincarnation: Hindu life after death.
If you wish to send flowers to a Hindu family in mourning:
- send lotus flowers, or yellow and white chrysanthemums
- send them to the family home or funeral parlour before the service
- do not bring the flowers with you to the funeral service
- do not bring gifts of food to a Hindu funeral
The family might request donations be made to religious institutions, in lieu of flowers.
This giving of alms is considered a holy gesture. It displays the kindness and generosity of the deceased, even in death.
What happens after a Hindu Funeral?
After the funeral service the family will proceed to witness the Hindu cremation. In the UK, this will normally be held at a crematorium. Mourners may or may not be invited to attend the cremation ceremony.
What are the funeral rites for a Hindu Cremation in the UK?
When the casket arrives at the crematorium, prayers are said and the casket is carried inside the building. Usually the casket is carefully carried feet-first through every entrance or doorway, while Hindu Funeral prayers are recited.
At an Indian Funeral, the eldest son will usually light the funeral pyre. At a crematorium in the UK, the family and mourners will pray while the eldest son circles the casket. If possible, he may push the button on the incinerator. The mourners witness the cremation and once the cremation is over, they may go home.
After a Hindu cremation in India, the remains of a loved one would traditionally be scattered in the Ganges river. In the UK however, Hindu cremated remains can be:
- scattered into the sea
- scattered in rivers that flow into the sea
Keep in mind which rivers in the UK are deemed legal for this purpose. Three examples are: the River Thames, the Wye and the Soar.
Feel free to speak to us at Fenix Funeral Services if you have any questions related to Hindu Funeral ceremonies, as well as any arrangements to be made. At Fenix Funeral Directors, we pride ourselves on providing a supportive and respectful funeral service for people of all faiths.
What is the Hindu Mourning Period?
After the death of a loved one, the family will stay in mourning for ten days. While in mourning, they are considered spiritually unclean and will refrain from entering any holy space or temple during this time. After the “Shraddha” ceremony, the family may return to work, life and worship routines, depending on their personal preferences.
What is more common, a Hindu Burial or Hindu Cremation?
At an Indian funeral, Hindus traditionally cremate their dead on a funeral pyre, after which the ashes are dispersed in the river Ganges. In the UK, Hindus would normally be cremated at a crematorium. It is not common for a Hindu to be buried.
For any Hindu Funeral arrangements, feel free to speak to us. At Fenix Funeral Directors, we are committed to making your funeral arrangements as simple and stress-free as possible, during this difficult time.