(Last Updated on : 27-04-2011)
Funeral rites have to be done by the son as mentioned in Garuda Purana
. When a person dies, his sons will bathe the dead body first and then drape it in a single cloth piece. Sandalwood paste is rubbed on the boy. Ekkodishta is a ceremony performed by him. This ceremony gives the right to cremate the dead body. The rite is performed at the place of death or at the door of the house or the courtyard, the place where the dead body is resting, the cremation ground or on the funeral pyre itself.
Sesame, sacrificial grass, clarified butter and wood are carried by the son to the cremation ground. On the way to the cremation ground hymns of Lord Yama are sung. In the cremation ground a funeral pyre is prepared. The piece of clothe worn by the dead person is torn into two. The body is draped with half a piece of cloth and the remaining half is left in the cremation ground for the ghost. Religious offerings are done to the dead man and clarified butter is sprinkled on the dead body. It is then placed on the funeral pyre.
The fire is lit. mantras are said when the body is half-burnt. It is believed that the ghost feels good when it hears these sounds of grief. After the body is burnt completely, the sons give offerings to the dead and circle the funeral pyre. Thereafter they go to have a bath and while doing so they continue to say good things about the dead person. The dead body is offered water taken in the cupped arms of the son. This is tarpana and it is performed once, thrice or ten times. After the tarpana is done clothes are changed. The wet clothes are changed after the tarpana is over.
A child within two years is buried. A wife can perform self sacrifice on the husband's funeral pyre. It is considered that this brings great punya. She rescues her husband from hell. In some cases cremation ceremonies are not performed nor are the dead offered any pinda or tarpana. Funeral ceremonies performed in these cases do more harm. A special religious rite called narayanavali is performed.
If a snake-bite leads to death, the golden image of a snake is given to a Brahman along with a cow. The dead body is covered with palasha leaves and other holy objects and it is burnt which is known as sarpavali.
There is a ten day period of mourning after the dead body has been burnt and this is known as ashoucha. The sons must bathe thrice a day and abstain from eating meat. They sleep on the floor. Any type of studying and donation are forbidden. Hair combing is not allowed. Clay vessels or lea plates are used for having food. On one of the ten days, they must fast throughout the day.
A pinda is offered to the dead person and each day same article is offered. Water is also offered. After the tenth pinda the sons get themselves purified. Their heads and beards are shaved. However those who are younger than the dead can get their heads shaved. Each day's pinda offerings are divided into four sections. The first part of pinda is set aside for Lord Yama
's messengers. The second part is used by the preta in order to live. Remaining two parts are used by the preta to reconstruct a body by which he can travel to Yama's abode.
A shraddha rite is held on the eleventh day. The first funeral ceremony is known as adya shraddha. On that a bull is donated and it is known as vrishotsarga. On the eleventh day objects dear to the dead man are to be donated. Brahmanas are invited for the feast.
A final shraddha ceremony known as varshika shraddha is held. These ceremonies are accompanied by the offering of pindas. A lamp is lit outside the house for the sake of preta.
There are sixteen cities that need to be crossed on the way to Yama's abode. They are Yamya, Souri, Nagendra, Gandharva, Shailagama, Krouncha, Krura, Vichitra, Vahvapada, Duhkada, Nankranda, Sutapta, Roudra, Payovarshana, Shitadhya, Vahubhiti.