Death takes center stage in many religions. If you are a Christian or a Muslim, your body will be buried; if you are a Hindu, based on the tradition you follow, your body will be either cremated or buried. The Buddhists follow various death rites and some of the rites include, burying, cremation, feeding to scavengers etc.
Do you care what happens to your body when you die? Whether you are Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or a Muslim, the religion you follow tells that it is very important to follow the proper death rites for the smooth passage of your “soul” from this world to the other world.
Depending on culture and tradition, there are numerous death rites. In some culture, a corpse is buried, in other cultures corpse is cremated, or submerged in river or sea. Cremation and burring are common death rites. There are also some extreme death rites. For instance, in Tibet some people dispose a corpse by chopping and feeding to the vultures. This tradition is also followed by some tribes in Nepal.
Death rites are important aspect of every religion because death marks the journey of the soul into another realm. Interestingly, in Hinduism death rites do not end in after the burial or cremation. When someone dies in your family, you will have to perform death rites for the dead as long as you live. For example, when your father or mother dies, you will have to not only follow the thirteen day mourning rituals but also perform yearly rites as long as you live. While you perform yearly death rites of your father or mother, you will also have to perform rites for your dead ancestors as well. Death rites are to make the passage of the soul safe and easy towards anther realm, where as rituals for dead ancestors are to make the ancestors live well in their the realm of dead ancestors.
In Hinduism, it is not only necessary to worship the deities but is also very important to propitiate the souls of ancestors. Every son must perform the rituals for his mother and father on the days when their mother and father died. While performing rituals for their dead mother and father they also remember their dead ancestors.
In Hinduism there are also days especially sanctioned for rituals for dead ancestor. For instance in mother and father’s day a son must perform rituals. There are also 16 special days when the son has to perform rituals for their ancestors. Popularly called sora shraddha, every son/daughter whose parents have died perform the rituals during these days. These rituals and rites are meant to keep the soul of dead ancestors safe.
During these 16 days, Hindus abstain from eating meat products. The event of 16 days of the rituals for the dead ancestors it is often referred as “shorha shraddha.” Shorha means 16 and shraddha means rituals for the dead ancestors. These rituals are performed by men whose father, mother or both of the parents are dead. Performing rituals are the ways to show gratitude to the ancestors.
Like in most of the world religions, the rites and rituals in Hinduism are also basically meant to be followed by men. Apart from couple of exceptions, all rituals, including death rites/rituals, are to be followed by male. However, in the recent times, traditions are being altered. Women have started performing rituals including death rites. Recently, father of my acquaintaince died. The son is in Australia and could not come for the death rites. The daughter is doing the kiriya and the 13 day rites.