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Hindu Funerals Dr. Jayant Bapat Hindu Priest Adjunct Research Fellow, Monash Asia Institute.

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Presentation on theme: "Hindu Funerals Dr. Jayant Bapat Hindu Priest Adjunct Research Fellow, Monash Asia Institute."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hindu Funerals Dr. Jayant Bapat Hindu Priest Adjunct Research Fellow, Monash Asia Institute

2 Hindu Cosmology 1.For Hindus, the physical universe consists of: – the Earth – Vasu Loka (space of the godlings, the Vasus. – Rudra Loka (space for the godlings Rudras). – Aditya Loka (space for Aditya, the Sun god. – Swarga Loka (Heaven). 2. The ultimate reality is the Brahman-the principle that governs the universe and that resides in the Swarga Loka.

3 Goal of Human Life The ultimate goal of human life is to achieve freedom from re-birth (Moksha) This can be achieved in many different ways even within Hinduism. – Total selfless devotion to god (Bhakti) – Total asceticism: renouncing the society altogether – Follow the path of knowledge – Follow the path of being a righteous member of the society and do the right thing by all.

4 The Karma Theory Any action by an individual is called Karma. Karma can be good or bad. One has to extinguish all the Karma before Moksha can be achieved. Thus, Moksha is a very difficult thing to achieve. One has to go through thousands of cycles of birth and deaths to extinguish all the Karma. These cycles are called Reincarnation

5 Hindu Funerary Rites-1 From birth, humans go through 16 rites of passage. Main ones are: birth, naming, threading ceremony, wedding and death. Since death is the last rite, it is the most important one. Hindus generally cremate the body. Two exceptions are: child under one year of age and an ascetic who has taken ochre robes. These two are buried.

6 Hindu Funerary Rites-2 In India, cremation happens on an open wooden pyre. The eldest son torches the pyre and then perfoms the ritual with the help of a priest. This takes about one hour. The ashes are spread into any source of water: river, lake or the sea. Generally women do not attend funerals.

7 Hindu Funerary Rites

8 Myth and Symbolism-1 Human body consists of two things: the physical body and the soul (Atman) Body is subject to natures ravages and is destructible. Offering of the body to gods via fire is the ultimate human sacrifice. Soul is part of the Brahman, it is forever and is indestructible. Upon leaving one body, the soul is set free and enters a new one. This is Reincarnation.

9 Myth and Symbolism-2 The soul hovers around on the earth for 13 days. After this, it starts its journey through the 3 Lokas. The time spent on each of these Lokas depends on the accumulated Karma and may involve taking thousands of rebirths before Moksha. On the 14 th day, Ganesha, the auspicious god is worshipped and the home is sprinkled with consecrated water. All impurities are now thought to be gone.

10 Hindu Funerary Rites in Australia Open cremation out of question Coffin necessary, therefore offering the body to the fire is done only symbolically. Because of the number of non-Hindus present, service element comes in. Most Hindus like cremation asap after death. Most Hindus like to see the actual cremation.

11 Procedure I follow before funeral I talk to the close relatives, especially old ones, beforehand. I get all their details and their preferences. I ask them to ask the funeral directors people to ring me for my availability before they fix a date and time. I ask them to: – Bring any music the person liked or a arrange a possible singer – A picture portfolio – Any clothes that he/she should be draped in – Think about speakers and their order – A possible MC – Provide adequate flowers

12 Procedure at the Funeral-1 Guests are asked to enter and be seated. Close relations sit in the front row. The Coffin is brought in, the guests stand up. The coffin placed with the head of the diseased to the South-the direction of Yama, the god of death. It is then opened. I introduce myself and start with a devotional song (bhajan). People are asked to join in.

13 Procedure at the Funeral - 2 I make a five minutes speech on the concept of death according to Hinduism. I chant six verses of the second chapter of the Bhagvat-Geeta, the song divine, and explain what they mean. This chapter describes the destructibility of the physical body and the permanence of the soul. I explain the concept of reincarnation. I then ask people to speak about the diseased, how he/she has enriched their lives and how they will remember him/her.

14 Procedure at the Funeral-3 At the end of speeches, the close family circle the coffin four times, each time repeating the Mrutyunjaya mantra and placing flowers on the body. I allow the close family to stay with the coffin for a few minutes. I then ask the son/daughter to do the last rites. Depending on the available time, I then ask the gathered guests to offer flowers Finally I chant two hymns addressed to the departed before the coffin is sealed.

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