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Friday, October 30, 2009

Details of the 13 days ceremony


In Hinduism Cremation is a ritual designed to do much more than dispose of the body. "Hindus believe that cremation compared to burial or outside disintegration" The standard cremation ceremony begins with the ritual cleansing, dressing and adorning of the body. The body is then carried to the cremation ground as prayers are chanted to Yama, invoking his aid.

It is the chief mourner, usually the eldest son, who takes the twigs of holy kusha grass, flaming, from the Doms' (the untouchable caste who tend funeral pyres) eternal fire to the pyre upon which the dead has been laid. He circumambulates the pyre counter clockwise– for everything is backward at the time of death. As he walks round the pyre, his sacred thread, which usually hangs from the left shoulder, has been reversed to hang from the right. He lights the pyre. The dead, now, is an offering to Agni, the fire.

Here, as in the most ancient Vedic times, the fire conveys the offering to heaven.After the corpse is almost completely burned, the chief mourner performs the rite called kapälakriyä, the 'rite of the skull,' cracking the skull with a long bamboo stick, thus releasing the soul from entrapment in the body. After the cremation, the ashes are thrown into a river, ideally the Ganges River, and the mourners walk away without looking back.

The death ritual does not end with the elimination of the body. There is still the safety of the soul to look after. To ensure the passage during its voyage to the Otherworld, an eleven-day ritual called shraddha is performed. It "consist(s) of daily offerings of rice balls, called pindas, which provide a symbolic, transitional body for the dead. During these days, the dead person makes the journey to the heavens, or the world of the ancestors, or the 'far shore.'" "On the twelfth day, the departed soul is said to reach its destination and be joined with its ancestors, a fact expressed symbolically by joining a small pinda to a much larger one" Without these rites, the soul may never find it way to Yama's realm.
It is believed in Hinduism that the departed soul travels through the pretaloka [பிரேத லோகா ](the world of ghosts and spirits) to the pitraloka [பித்ரலோகா] (the heaven or the world of ancestors), and initiated many rituals to aid the journey.
The Gods were invited and offerings were made.Some of the raw materials used in the rituals were hay தர்பை (dharba), sesame-seeds (teela), rice, and flowers. Apart from the usual rituals mentioned above many small rituals are performed.

There is a belief that unfulfilled desires of the dead prevent the soul from liberating. This is indicated by the refusal of the crow to eat the pinda. The crows are invited to eat the pindas. On the twelfth day, the spirits of the ancestors (grand parents and great grand parents) are invited into new pindas,[பிண்டம் ] and asked them to receive the spirit of one’s father, which we initiate into a separate rice ball.

Then broke the ball that represented father in sign of the dead merging with the ancestors. This process, known as Sapindikarana marked the end of journey of the departed.On thirteenth day, on the assumption that the departed soul had reached heaven we honour the Brahmins by giving them gifts, and feed the relatives. This is known as Samaradhana or Grahayagyam or celebration and marked the end of mourning.-

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