Hinduism teaches that God is within each being and object in the universe and also transcends every being and object. It teaches that the essence of each soul is divine, and that the purpose of life is to become aware of that divine essence.
When someone dies, the individual soul has no beginning and no end. It may pass to another through reincarnation, depending on someone’s karma. Karma is the consequences of one’s actions over lifetimes – not just the most recent one. If the soul has realised the true nature of reality, it may become one with the Brahman, the “One.”
Before and after death
Most Hindus choose to die at home, surrounded by family and loved ones who will keep vigil. Once they have died, the body remains at home until the cremation which is usually 24 hours after death.
In a traditional Hindu funeral there are certain things that happen, including:
- A lamp is placed by the head of the body
- Prayers and hymns being sung
- Pindas (rice balls) placed in the coffin
- Water sprinkled on the body
- A ‘mala’ - a necklace of wooden beads - is put around the dead person’s neck. Garlands of flowers may also be added.
Hindus always have an open casket, and a priest or “karta” will preside over the proceedings. Hymns and mantras are recited and some services include a fire sacrifice. At this point, offerings are made to ancestors and gods.
Hindus opt for cremation as they believe it helps the soul to escape the body quickly. Afterwards, the deceased’s ashes are scattered on water. Many people take the ashes to India to put on the waters of the Ganga, others may take them to the sea near to where they live.