Hindu Funeral Traditions

Beliefs around death

Hindus believe that when they die, their soul is reincarnated into a different body or physical form. What form will depend on how they lived their previous life, otherwise known as karma.

This view is widely recognised amongst Hindus, but it is accepted that this belief may differ slightly according to the type of Hinduism being practised.

Cremation and embalming

According to Hindu custom, the body is to be cremated within 24 hours of death. This means embalming is rare and often not needed.

Before the funeral

A viewing of the Hindu’s body after death is not common because of their cremation customs. If a viewing does occur, it’s usually brief and with the body of the deceased displayed in a simple casket.

Hindu funeral prayers, hymns and mantras are also usually chanted by the family and friends around the casket. Guests are also expected to view the body, which should be done quietly and respectfully, without touching the body.

At the funeral

As cremation forms part of the funeral, the casket is carried to the crematorium feet first while mourners recite prayers. The family will then circle around their loved one in prayer and watch the cremation. After the cremation is complete, mourners will normally go home.

Non-Hindu mourners are generally welcome to take part in the rituals if they wish but there is no pressure to participate if this compromises your own beliefs.

After the funeral

Traditionally, the ashes of the deceased are immersed in the Ganges River one day after the funeral. While some families choose to transport the ashes of their loved ones to India for this to happen, this is often not practical or affordable, so many other rivers around the world have become acceptable substitutes.

What to wear

Mourners at a Hindu funeral should wear white, casual clothing. Light pants and simple long or short sleeve shirt are often worn by men, while women will often wear dresses. Black and formal should not be worn.

Gifts and flowers

Flowers are a normal gift at a Hindu funeral. If you wish to send flowers, they should be sent to the family or the funeral director before the funeral.

Food is not normally an appropriate gift to bring.

Mourning periods

The family will normally mourn for 13 days. Visitors are welcome during this time.