Death is inevitable. In every religion there are rituals performed after death. Similarly, in Hindu religion there are various religious sanskaras formulated to enable humankind to get closer to his creator. The rituals to be performed after cremation and before cremation are elaborate. We look below at some of the rituals that are performed before the cremation.
A number of materials are needed for the initial rites for the deceased. Some of these are a bamboo, coir rope weighing 1 kg, one small and one large earthen pot, a white cloth to cover the dead body, a garland of tulsi leaves, mud from the bottom of a Tulsi plant, 250 grams black sesame, 500 grams ghee, darbha, which is a type of grass, 100 grams of camphor, one match box, seven barley or rice balls, a spoon and a metal cup used in the worship, logs of a mango or jackfruit tree, a sickle, holy ash, white mud found in the holy city of Dwarka, a piece of sandalwood, cakes made from cowdung, one bowl of pancgavya, which is a mixture comprising of cow’s milk, curd, ghee, cows urine and cow dung and the last but not the least seven gold pieces.
The eldest son of the deceased person is entitled to carry out all the rites. If the eldest son is not available due to any reasons, the youngest son can perform the duties. If even the youngest son is unable to do so, any nearest male relative of the deceased can perform the rituals on their behalf. If the deceased is unmarried, male family members like father, brother or otherrelatives can carry out the rites.
Immediately after the death of a person, his limbs and neck should be straightened out, as after a certain time, it becomes difficult to do so. His eyes should be closed. Crying aloud and beating of chest is not encouraged. The family members should offer intermittent prayers for protection of the dead body from negative energy. Put cow dung on the floor before putting the dead body down. Spread darbha on the floor and a blanket or a rug can be placed on top of it. The dead body can now be laid on it with its feet facing the south. From a distance, sprinkle bhasma or vibhuti in an anticlockwise direction around the dead body.
Put Gangajal in the mouth of the deceased and close the openings of his nose and ears by inserting tulsi leaves in them. An earthen or metal lamp with a single wick is to be put at some distance from the head of the deceased. The lamp will continue to burn for a period of ten days even after the dead body is removed from there.
No one should touch the body of the deceased during the priest funeral service and thedead body should be cremated as soon as the initial rites are performed as keeping it for too long may cause the body to decompose.