Hindu mourning rituals will vary according to the sect, caste, circumstances of the family and a variety of other elements. The rituals will reflect a time of service and mourning, showing the family’s dedication to Hindu teachings, beliefs about death, and honoring the memory of the deceased.

What Happens After Death in the Hindu Religion

After the cremation service, the family will return home and perform Hindu death rituals such as ceremonial bathing. Following their bathing, they will clean the house, as it is a Hindu belief that when someone dies, their home and its inhabitants are left unclean and impure.

A Hindu priest will be invited to visit and to purify the house with incense, prayers and mantra. It is often a custom and part of the Hindu death ritual for the family to share a meal together and offer prayers for the departed, themselves and their house.

There is an intense period of mourning immediately following the cremation or burial service which lasts thirteen days. During this time, because the family of the deceased is considered impure, they are bound by several rules of behavior. For example, they will stay primarily in the family home during this time. They are not to attend religious functions or celebrations, and there are certain foods, like sweets, which should not be eaten.

Additionally, they are not to touch or go near the family shrine. They should not enter a temple or any sacred place, take part in any religious service except for funerals, or read or recite anything from the holy scriptures. They may not visit other family or friends (though the relatives can visit the bereaved) or attend any social functions, like marriages, birthday parties or religious festivities.

During these thirteen days, the family and friends of the deceased are given the freedom to express their grief rather than keep it bottled up inside. Most of the Hindu mourning rituals performed are designed to promote the free expression of emotions. It is believed that free expression will keep the body healthy, instead of bound by mourning and unresolved anger. It is also key to building positive karma for the deceased.

The family may return to work following the thirteen day period of mourning. There are no set customs prohibiting working during the period of mourning, so returning to work is often an individual decision. Such decisions are often based upon the circumstances of the family and the level of their commitment to the traditions of Hinduism.

Year Long Time of Mourning

While the thirteen day intense period of Hindu mourning rituals may involve family and friends, the immediate family of the deceased is considered in mourning for a year following the death of the loved one. During this time, some of the traditions will limit or restrict participation in festivals and events, as well as discourage making life-altering decisions like changing jobs or moving. Some traditions will not allow for a wedding to take place during the year.

Shraddha

On the one-year anniversary of the death of the loved one, a memorial service is held in the family home. Family members have an open invitation to attend the service. Close friends who are invited to attend will receive a personal invitation to the event. Customs vary by tradition, but are conducted by a local priest and involve prayers, scripture readings and chanting. Food will be served following the ceremony.

Comforting the Bereaved

It is appropriate to visit the home of the family as an expression of comfort and support. During the thirteen-day period of mourning following the death, the presence of friends and family helps create positive karma to help prepare the soul for its next incarnation. It is also appropriate in Hindu tradition to send sympathy gifts.

 


Send Appropriate Condolences

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RECOMMENDED READING

Hinduism: Funeral & Burial Customs

Hinduism: What to Bring or Send

Understanding Religion