promptness of Hindu funerals

Thrasher, Allen athr at LOC.GOV
Wed Jul 6 15:11:01 EDT 2011


A colleague just told me that another colleague, a Hindu from India, died last Saturday morning and the funeral was the afternoon of the same day.  It was a service with the deceased in a coffin, not the cremation. This raises some questions.

1.  I was a long time ago told that in Indian civil law (or at least in Pune, where issue came up) the body must be disposed of, whether by cremation or burial, within 24 hours.  But on the other hand I seem to recall the large-scale funerals of public figures taking place several days after their deaths.  I can see that in a hot country without much refrigeration or tradition of embalming the State might want to mandate quick funerals for reasons of public health, and the family for reasons of smell.  I have read accounts of the Second World War in the South Pacific that in the islands those killed would start stinking and visibly decaying within hours of death.  In any case, does anyone know if there is such a civil law in India?

2.  Is there anything in dharmasastra about how quickly cremations must follow death?

3.  I gather that in general Islamic law demands a funeral within 24 hours.  Is this correct?

4. I wonder if there is anywhere expressed the concern that one should watch with the body after apparent death to make sure the person is really dead and not comatose.  There are those stories in Sanskrit of people waking up on the funeral pyre.

Allen


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Senior Reference Librarian and Team Coordinator
South Asia Team
Asian Division
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20540-4810
USA
tel. 202-707-3732
fax 202-707-1724
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.


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