Guide to antyesti: Hindu Funeral and Mourning Rituals

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Funeral practices in Hinduism

  • Hindu funeral rituals, called antyesti, begin at the home and involve family and friends.
  • A funeral is more than just a way to say goodbye. It's a bridge that helps the departed soul move on its spiritual journey, ensuring it finds peace and eventual liberation.
  • The body is washed, anointed and dressed, and people gather and pray.
  • In Hindu cremation rituals, any families scatter ashes in a sacred body of water to signify the final separation of the soul from the body.

Every religion possesses distinct funerary and mourning customs designed to navigate the grieving process. In Hinduism, funeral rites, termed antyesti or "last sacrifice," are rooted in the concept of the separation of body and soul.
While practices may vary across sects, the core belief revolves around the soul's journey beyond death. Hindus understand death as a transition, not the final destination. It marks the beginning of a profound journey toward unity with Brahman, the divine essence permeating existence.

Hindu funeral rituals commence at home, where loved ones ritually cleanse the departed's body and adorn it with sacred offerings. Garlands of flowers and rice balls honor the deceased, while an oil lamp symbolizes the soul's eternal light.
Mourners, traditionally dressed in white, gather to pay their respects and offer condolences. Hindu priests or family elders lead sacred chants, guiding the soul toward its next phase of existence.

The body is cremated within 24 hours, symbolizing the return of its elements to the cosmos. The eldest son traditionally oversees the cremation, accompanied by rituals aimed at aiding the soul's detachment.

Following cremation, ashes may be scattered in sacred waters, signifying the soul's final journey. Mourning customs vary but typically involve a period of reflection and remembrance, culminating in a memorial service on the first anniversary of the passing.

Ultimately, Hindu funeral rites seek to honor the departed's memory while guiding their soul on its timeless journey.

Asthi-visarjan is the final rites for the disposal of Antyesti. According to the Hindu religion, the ashes and remains of the deceased are collected in an earthen pot and consigned to the holy river. It is commonly believed that immersion of the ashes in the river Ganga is considered most sacred.

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