With different cultural and religious traditions, a universal guideline for funeral ceremonies cannot be generated. Being tardy and not being careful of one’s own behaviour can seem impolite to those who are in times of difficulty. Hence, it is essential to follow certain etiquettes to be respectful towards the family who is in mourning. Keeping in mind that there is a vast variety of customs and beliefs around the world, this article specifically highlights the Hindu funeral traditions. This guideline of do’s and don’ts is useful for an appropriate funeral etiquette at a Hindu death ritual.
- Unlike other religions, wearing black is not considered appropriate at funeral service. All guests and family members have the liberty to wear whatever they prefer, considering the colour is white and the clothes are conservative.
- An open casket visit is planned before the deceased person is cremated. This an invitation for the guests to visit the wake and pay their condolences. During this time, the guests offer their blessings and comfort to the family, before the cremation begins. Additionally, it is also important to arrive on time.
- The people who were the closest to the deceased person sit near the body and the rest are expected to sit quietly in the middle or at the back. This allows the family to receive some space.
- Even though the Hinduism outlook on death is on the optimistic side and people believe that our souls are a part of a bigger picture, it is still important to be respectful towards the deceased person’s family. It is courteous to show grief and be respectful of everybody’s feelings.
- Offer to help. Offering any kind of assistance or help will be very useful for the family. Planning a funeral is stressful enough, on top of the emotions of losing a loved one. If you are able to offer help in any way, it may bring some sort of relief or peace to the family members.
- Flowers are an appropriate gift to bring at the funeral service. If there is a ceremony kept for after the mourning period, it can be considered appropriate to bring fruits.
It is important to act normal. There is nothing specific you can say to make the family feel better or to distract them, but there is a possibility to comfort them by asking them if they need anything to eat or drink. A hug can be a soothing gesture as well.
- It is not advised to wear black or vibrant colours as it is considered inappropriate. People are expected to dress decent and not wear any revealing apparels.
- It is not expected to bring food or any other gift items such as valuables or money to a funeral ceremony.
- From the date of the death, there is a 10 day mourning period for the family. This is the time when the family members are not allowed to go to temples and they most likely take an off from work as well. Spiritually, they are considered to be in a state of grief.
- Considering that we live in a digital era where we are constantly on our mobile phones, it is considered impolite to be on the phone or to receive phone calls during the funeral service. It is advised to either turn it off or to receive an important phone call from a reasonable distance or outdoors.
- Do not walk away or get rattled by religious ceremonies. If there a ritual going on that you are not aware of, it is advised to stand and listen. You are not forced to partake in any rituals if you are not confident about it. It will be considered polite if you stand silently, listening to the prayers if you are do not know the prayers rather than walking away.
- It may not appropriate to photograph the ceremony, unless there is permission from the family. Taking photos or videos at the funeral service is considered impolite, especially if it is being filmed to post on social media platforms.
- Lastly, it is important to be careful about the topics we choose to discuss at a funeral service. Discussing topics related to politics, religion or any insensitive subject can cause a stressful situation. To keep the environment sombre and light, it is best to steer clear of such topics and keep the conversations light.