Cultural Diversity: Rituals, Part 2

This week will be a focus on a few interesting funeral rituals around the world. Because there are so many varied attitudes towards death, dying, disposing of dead bodies, funerals and memorial services, food, etc., this could end up being a series of posts about death… Here is some info about general Hindu and Muslim customs:

Hinduism: (I got this directly from the website:

“In the Hindu funeral tradition, the body remains at the home until it is cremated, which is usually within 24 hours after death. There, at the service, mourners may dress casually. Black attire is inappropriate and white is preferred. Flowers may be offered, but bringing food is not part of the Hindu custom. There is always an open casket and guests are expected to view the body. The Hindu priest and senior family members conduct the ceremony. Guests of other faiths, as well as Hindus are welcome to participate, but not expected to do so. Using a camera or recorder of any kind is not considered polite.

Ten days later, a ceremony is held at the home of the deceased in order to liberate the soul for its ascent into heaven. Visitors are expected to bring fruit. The mourning period ranges from 10 to 30 days after the death.”

Here is what the same website has to say about Muslim treatment of death and funeral rites:

“Islamic customs require that:

  • The body be turned to face towards Mecca, the holy center of Islam.
  • Guests of the same sex should greet each other with a handshake and hug.
  • A person sitting next to the body reads from the Koran. An Imam presides over the service.
  • The deceased’s eyes and mouth are closed. There is rarely an open casket.
  • Guests should not take photos or use recording devices.
  • The arms, legs, and hands of the body are stretched out in alignment with the body.
  • The death is immediately announced to all friends and relatives.
  • The body is bathed and covered in white cotton.
  • Within two days following death, the body is carried to the graveyard by four men. A procession of friends and relatives follow.
  • No discussion takes place at the time of burial, but all guests pray for the soul of the departed.
  • After the body is buried, all guests go to the house of the family of the deceased. A meal is prepared and guests usually stay for the entire day. Family members may stay for the whole week.
  • During this time, the family members socialize. It is believed that socializing helps to ease suffering.
  • If arriving late, guests should simply join in.

The mourning period officially last for 40 days. During that time, family members wear only black clothing. For one full year, the wife of the deceased continues to wear black, but the anniversary of the death is not observed.

In the Islamic culture death is accepted and viewed as a natural part of life. The belief that the deceased has moved on to a pleasant afterlife is an important belief and helps the bereaved cope with their suffering.”

Next post on Irish traditions…


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