Mourning Rites In Different Cultures – How And Why They Perform by Winston Dunbar
Every culture has its own set of mourning rituals and funerary customs which hold unique significance for the people it belongs to. To know how a culture approaches the concept of death and afterlife, knowledge of its funerary customs can also be helpful. People from different places of the world adopt different types of mourning rituals which find meaning and relevance in accordance with their religious concepts. In the west, burial is more of a rule rather than exception but again people nowadays are turning to cremation as well depending on their personal preferences.
Christians believe in a proper burial in keeping with the beliefs of the church. After “visitation,” they undertake funeral service in either a church or burial grounds in a ceremonial manner. In the visitation or wake, body of the deceased is embalmed and put on display in a casket. After friends and relatives had their last view of the deceased, the ritual is brought to an end in a formal manner and preparations are made for carrying the casket to a church or burial grounds for burial service.
Jews prefer to wash the body and dress in white before being placed in the casket. Embalming is given a go by and the burial usually takes place within a day of the death. The people gathered for mourning are supposed to slit their outer clothing to express their grief at the loss. Then seven days of mourning is observed and on the death anniversary Kaddish, a jewish prayer is said every year and a candle is lit in the memory of the deceased.
In Islamic tradition, the body is washed and covered in a white cotton sheet before being placed in the casket. Burial is undertaken without delay and usually before noon. The body of the deceased is placed in such a way as to face Mecca, the supreme holy place for Muslims. As part of mourning rituals, prayers are said from Koran and on every Eid, family gathers at the burial site to pray.
In Hindu tradition, the body is washed and covered in a white cotton cloth before being placed on a funeral pyre. The funeral pyre is lit by the eldest son of the deceased or a close male relative. Prayers are said from Hindu texts to bless the soul of the deceased with eternal peace and salvation from cycle of death and rebirth. Hindus consider that the cremation is the best method to allow the mortal coil to come back to the original five elements it is composed of. The cremation takes place within 24 hours of the death before the sun sets.
On fourth day of the cremation, a few close relatives go back to collect the remains of the deceased. The remains are placed in an earthen jar and will be disposed of in the holy waters of Ganges. Mourning is observed for thirteen days in the home of the deceased and the eldest son should chant Gayatri mantra for the deceased. An earthen lamp is lit for thirteen nights at the place where body of the deceased was originally placed in home before being taken away for cremation.
Prayers are read from Garuda Purana during this period of mourning for thirteen days and the mourners wear white as the color symbolizing peace, calm, and spiritual purity. In the west, usually black is worn by mourners but these days people are frequently resorting to white. There is no such religious restriction in western traditions as well to wear black only during mourning. The convention of wearing black to a funeral started in the Victorian era and does not have any real religious significance.
Even clergy are not shy to don white at funerals because Christian teachings do not really lay down black as the color to be worn for mourning. However, in most of the religious traditions, you will find black and white as the color of choice for mourners and those attending the funeral. One reason for this trend seems to be that these two colors are not considered to represent the brighter and more cheerful side of the life and are instead considered more colors representing sombreness, spiritual profundity and all that transcends materialistic confines of the world.
About the Author
Article by Dunbar Winston of FuneralesReforma, who is a specialist in hispanic estate planning. For more information on funerales Guatemala and contratos funerarios Guatemala, visit his site today.
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