Last Rites

According to the deceased’s caste and sect, last rituals, or antyeshti (Hindu funeral rites), are carried out, which include cremation and scattering the ashes in a holy river. The antyeshti rituals are the last sacrament (samskara) in a series that should ideally start at conception and be carried out at each significant life stage.

When death is imminent, relatives and the pandit are called, mantras and holy texts are performed, and ritualistic gifts are arranged. The body is taken as soon as possible to the cremation grounds after death. The final rites of cremation are carried out by the deceased’s eldest son and the presiding priest.

The close family members of the bereaved are regarded as impure for the ensuing ten days, during which time they engage in certain rites. They carry out rituals during this time in order to give the departed person’s soul a new spiritual body with which to transition into the afterlife. The distribution of milk and water, as well as the giving of rice balls, are all part of the ceremonies. The ashes are collected and buried or submerged in a river at the appointed time. The survivors continue to carry out shraddha rites—memorial ceremonies—at specific periods.

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