Antyesti - History - Process - Cremation

Cremation

The cremation ground is called Shmashana (in Sanskrit), and traditionally it is located near a river, if not on the river bank itself. A pyre is prepared, on which the corpse is laid with its feet facing southwards; this is so the dead person can walk in the direction of the dead. The jewels, if any, are removed. Thereafter, the chief mourner (generally the eldest son) walks around the pyre three times keeping the body to his left. While walking he sprinkles water and sometimes ghee onto the pyre from a vessel. He then lights a small fire inside deceased's mouth, this is known as mukh-aagni. The pyre is then set alight with a flaming torch. The beginning of the cremation heralds the start of the traditional mourning period, which usually ends on the morning of the 13th day after death. When the fire has consumed the body, which may take several hours, the mourners return home. During this mourning period the family of the dead are bound by many rules and regulations of ritual impurity. Immediately after the cremation the entire family is expected to have a bath. One or two days after the funeral, the chief mourner returns to the cremation ground to collect the mortal remains and put them in an urn. These remains are then immersed in a river. Those who can afford it may go to special sacred places like Varanasi, Haridwar, Allahabad, Sri Rangam, Brahmaputra on the occasion of Ashokastami and Kanya Kumari to perform this rite of immersion of mortal remains.

The preta-karma is an important aspect of Hindu funeral rites, and its objective is to facilitate the migration of the soul of the dead person from the status of a preta (ghost or spirit) to the abode of the ancestors (Pitrs). It is believed that if this stage of the funerary rites are not performed or are performed incorrectly, the spirit of the dead person will become a ghost (bhuta). The rites generally last for ten or eleven days, at the end of which the preta is believed to join the abode of the ancestors. Thereafter, they are worshipped during the 'sraddha' ceremonies.

Read more about this topic:  Antyesti, History, Process

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