The Hindu periods of mourning 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 and honoring the memory of the deceased.

Initial Hindu Periods of Mourning

After the cremation service, the family will return home and perform a ceremonial bathing. It is Hindu custom that the death has left the house and its inhabitants as unclean and impure. Following their bathing, they will clean the house. A Hindu priest will be invited to visit and to purify the house with incense, prayers and mantra. It is often the custom 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, the family of the deceased is considered impure. They will stay primarily in the family home during this time. They are not to attend religious functions or celebrations. There are certain foods, like sweets or festive fruits, which should not be eaten during this time.

This time period allows one the freedom to express one’s grief rather than keep it bottled up inside. Most of the rituals are done in such a way as to promote the free expression of emotions. The purpose for these expressions is to keep the body healthy, not bound by mourning and unresolved anger. It also is a key in building positive karma for the deceased.

During this time of extreme mourning, the immediate family is considered impure. They are bound by several rules for behavior. They are not to touch or go near the family shrine. They should not enter a temple or any sacred place. They are not to take part in any religious service except for funerals. They must not read or recite anything from the holy scriptures. They may not visit other family or friends, though the relatives can visit the bereaved. They should not attend any social functions, like marriages, birthday parties or religious festivities.

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. The 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 mourning involves all 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 life-altering decision 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. Rituals 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.