USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘cremation’
Customs

After a Cremation

“In India it’s a rule for anyone who follows the Hindu religion that if they attend a cremation, which is the burning of a dead body, they have to shower first thing when they get home because if they don’t it brings negative vibes into the house and brings misfortune basically.  This is actually a really strictly followed custom because even though my house is pretty liberal about these sorts of things we still follow it very strictly.”

ANALYSIS:

It’s interesting to see which customs in the Hindu religion are followed extremely strictly and which customs are followed relatively liberally and only upheld by the more orthodox families.  For example, while this custom is followed quite strictly, the custom of eating vegetarian on Tuesdays and the custom of married couples fasting on one day of the year are followed quite loosely.

general
Life cycle
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Indian Cremation Ritual

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor. The informant tells me(AK) about an Indian tradition centered around cremation he is fond of and believes many Indian people practice.

SM: It is customary in Indian tradition to cremate someone’s body after they die. And then you take the ashes, and you put it in a place that’s very special to this person.

AK: Wow I think I’ve heard of something similar. What does this ritual mean to you?

SM: It’s a way of celebrating someone even after they have died.

AK: Where did you learn this ritual, and does your family practice it?

SM: I didn’t learn it from a specific person, but it’s just part of Indian culture. I haven’t had a chance to experience it because none of my relatives have died in my lifetime.

AK: Where would you want your ashes to be placed?

SM: Oh wow, that is a tough question (laughs). I guess I’d pick Mount Tambora, you can call it Mount Tam — in San Francisco because it’s this really beautiful hike, and it’s kind of the first hike I went on with my family. Yeah, I guess that’s where I would put mine.

I was definitely familiar with this ritual, but I had never heard the part about placing the ashes in the person’s favorite place. As I asked the question to my informant about where he would like his ashes placed, I began to think about how I would answer that question. It certainly is a very difficult question because it’s so difficult to determine someone’s favorite place. I feel like at this point in my life, I don’t really have a favorite place, but if I had to choose, I think I’d just pick my room in the house I grew up in.

 

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