Helping Families and Friends Honor Their Loved One


  • Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world. It is estimated to have nearly a billion followers. Unlike other religions, Hinduism
    has no founder and no common creed or doctrine. Most prevalent among Asian Indians, the religion teaches that God is within each being and
    object in the universe and also transcends every being and object. It teaches that the essence of each soul is divine; and that the purpose of life
    is to become aware of that divine essence.
  • The Hindu gods and goddesses can be called on to help. Their goal is to help believers transcend the world as it is ordinarily perceived and
    realize the divine presence. The many forms of Hindu worship, ritual and meditation are intended to lead the soul toward the direct experience
    of God or Self.
  • Although the physical body dies, the individual soul has no beginning and no end. It may pass to another through reincarnation, depending on
    one’s karma (the consequences of one’s actions over lifetimes). If the soul has realized the true nature of reality, it may become one with the
    Brahman, the “One.”
  • Those of the Hindu faith prefer to die at home, surrounded by their family who will keep vigil. According to Hindu funeral customs, the body
    remains at the home until it is cremated, which is usually within 24 hours after death. The ashes are typically scattered at a sacred body of
    water or at some other place of importance to the deceased.
    At the service, referred to as a wake, mourners may dress casually. White is the preferred color for both males and females. Black is considered
    inappropriate. An open casket will be present with a priest or “karta” presiding over the proceedings. Hymns and mantras are recited and some
    services include a fire sacrifice (home). Offerings are made to ancestors and gods.
  • 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.


  • When someone of the Islamic faith dies, Muslims within the community will gather together to offer prayers for the deceased’s
    forgiveness. This funeral prayer is called the Salat al-Janazah or Janazah prayer.
  • In preparing for the burial of the deceased, the family or other members of the Muslim community will clean and shroud the deceased’s body.
  • The only time this is not performed is if the deceased was a martyr. In that case, the deceased will be buried in the clothing in which he died.
  • The body is respectfully washed with clean, scented water, and then the body is wrapped in a kafan, or clean, white burial shroud. This is done
    prior to the funeral prayer.
  • This sacred prayer is a very important part of the funeral tradition because if a person is buried without it, the entire Muslim community will
    incur a sin for having neglected this very important obligation.
  • While the prayer may be said in the mosque, it is more customarily practiced outside the mosque. It is also acceptable to pray the Janazah
    prayer in a graveyard, but it is not acceptable to utter other prayers there. The prayer can be said at some distance from the graves or in an area
    specifically dedicated to prayer. The prayer may also be said over the deceased’s grave if the person was buried prior to the prayer being
  • The spoken words of the prayer incorporate a quiet reading of Al-Fatiha, then praying for Mohammed and reciting two supplications. The
    prayer is conducted when an Imam is present and facing toward the Qiblah.
  • Rewards for Prayer
    Offering the funeral prayer is comes with a reward for the person who says the prayer as well as for the deceased. It is said that the person who
    says the prayer gains “one Qeerat of reward,” and the person who says the prayer and stays by the body until its burial will receive “two
    Qeerats of reward.”
  • Special Circumstances
    Sometime special circumstances surrounding the death of a Muslim make it impossible for another Muslim to pray the Janazah prayer over the
    body. In this special case, it is sometimes considered acceptable for the prayer to be performed elsewhere.
  • Finality of Death
    When someone dies, Muslims believe that everything is left behind. There are only three things that persist after death: charity given during a
    lifetime will continue to help others, people will continue to benefit from knowledge, and a righteous child can still pray for the deceased.


  • Sikhism is an eastern religion that started about 1500 A.D. in the Punjab region of southern Asia. It was born out of the teachings of Nanek, who
    developed a following after a revelation from God. He was considered the first guru and there have been ten subsequent gurus. All of the Sikh
    gurus are considered to have had the spirit of Nanek. The last guru, Guru Granth Sahib, is the guru in Scripture form.
  • The main aspiration of Sikhs is to gain a close and intimate relationship with their deity. They do this by gaining enlightenment through
    following the teachings of the gurus. There is only one God for Sikhs and he has no form but has many names. Sikhs can get an understanding of
    God through meditation.
  • Like Hinduism, Sikhism believes in reincarnation and karma. However, they reject the idea of a caste system. Everyone is equal in the eyes of
    God, according to their beliefs.
  • Sikh Funeral Traditions
    In regarding the body, death is a natural process of living. It is part of the cycle in Sikhism. This does not apply to the soul, however. The soul
    uses the body (life and death) in its journey back to God from where it came.
  • Sikhs prefer cremation over all other ways of disposal. Other methods (including burial in the ground or at sea) are permitted if the cremation is
    impossible. The cremated remains are typically submerged in a river. The body is just an empty shell to Sikhs. Therefore, there is typically no
    monument erected for the dead.
  • Crying out, wailing, or other public displays of emotions are disapproved of. Even the closest of relatives try to stay detached from the emotion
    of the occasion. The body is taken to the place of worship before cremation. There, hymns are sung and prayers recited.
  • At the site of the cremation, more hymns are sung and speeches are made about the deceased. At the close, a prayer is said. At that time, the
    youngest son or another close relative will start the cremation. He will either start the fire or start the process mechanically if that is available.


  • Jainism is not a Pagan religion; however some ideas from Jainism have been adopted by many Pagans. Specifically the notion that that the
    memories associated with a person somehow survives reincarnation is held by many Neo–Pagans. Additionally, many Neo-Pagans see the
    purpose of human life as recognizing their own natural divinity.
  • The body should be placed with the head pointed towards the North and cremated after the ceremony. A lit lamp know as a Deeva should be
    placed on the right side of the head and kept burning until the body is taken for cremation. The lamp has a cotton wick that is soaked in clarified
    butter (ghee) symbolizing divinity. For Jains an independent Soul resides in each and every living things, therefore as much as possible try not to
    make use of live flowers.
  • Use rose petals or other things that have fallen naturally from a plant without killing the plant
    Display the body with the head pointed North. The body should be cremated after the rite.
  • Display Lite oil lamp near the right hand side of the deceases head. Explain that the lamp represents the divine spark that exists after
  • Talk about the journey to recognize the divine in ourselves. How death is a part of this journey.
  • Share a meal during day light hours that does not use any food that is grown under the ground.
  • Visit the family of the deceased dressed in white.
  • Donate money to an organization that saves the lives of animals
    Pay homage to all great spiritual teachers.
    Namokar Mantra
  • (These five salutations evaporate and eradicate negative influences. This is the most sacred and auspicious prayer of all Jain a prayers. With
    some versions 'Om' is recited at the beginning of the first four lines. Notes on pronunciations: ‘A’ is pronounced as ‘u’ as in ‘but’ ‘AA’ is a long
    ‘aw’ sound as in ‘saw’).
    (OM) NAMO ARIHANTAANAM I bow to the Jinas (Arhants) the Perfected, yet Embodied Souls, possessed of Infinite Consciousness, Energy and
  • (OM) NAMO SIDDHAANAM I bow to the Perfect, Pure (Free of Karmic Attachments), Liberated Souls (Siddhas), those who have attained Moksh
  • (OM) NAMO AAYARIYAANAM I bow to the Ascetic Leaders (Aacharyas) of the Jaina Order;
  • (OM) NAMO UVAJJHAAYAANAM I bow to the Ascetic Preceptors/Teachers (Upadhyayas);
  • NAMO LOAE SAVVA SAAHUUNAM I bow to all the Jaina Ascetics (Monks/Nuns) in the world devoted to Purification of Soul/Self.


  • Immediately after cremation, bathe by taking a dip in a river, lake or with well water while chanting continuously.
    For offering tilānjali (Offering sesame seeds [til] and water), the kartā should place some black sesame in a pot
    containing water. Then the kartā, the family members and other relatives & friends should offer this water containing
    black sesame thrice on the ashma along the pitru-tīrtha (Area of the palm between the thumb and the index finger
    portion) of their palms while uttering ‘एष ते तिलतोयाञ्जलिस्तवोपतिष्ठताम्’,
    Meaning ‘tilānjali is being offered unto you’ while mentioning the gotra (Lineage according to Vedic science) and the
    name of the deceased. One whose father is alive should not offer tilānjali.
  • After returning home, keep the ashma in the area around the tulsī-vrundāvan (A small rectangular structure in which
    tulsī [Holy basil] is grown), but not besides the tulsī If tulsī-vrundāvan is not available, then keep the ashma outside
    the house in a safe place.
  • Bite a neem leaf before entering the house. Then perform āchman (Sipping water from the palm), touch Holy items
    like fire, water, cow-dung, white mustard etc. and then step on a stone (Step made of stone) before finally entering
    the house slowly.
  • In some neighbouring house, prepare a food item called ‘pithalē-bhāt’ (pithalē – a sauce like gravy made from gram
    flour boiled and spiced; bhāt – plain white cooked rice) for meals and bring it to the house of the deceased. Take a
    small portion of this on a leaf (preferably a banana leaf) and place it outside the house as naivēdya (Food offered to
    the Deity as part of ritualistic worship) for Vāstudēvtā (Presiding Deity of the house) and Sthāndēvatā (Presiding
    Deity of the area). The remaining food is to be offered to the Ishtadēvatā (Benevolent Deity) and then consumed by
  • On returning home after cremation, place ashma in the area around tulsī-vrundāvan; but not inside the tulsī-
    vrundāvan. If tulsī-vrundāvan is not there, place it somewhere safe outside the house.
    Before entering the house, purify yourself by sprinkling gomutra (Cow’s urine) all over your body.
  • Bite a neem leaf and enter the house slowly. Repeat this action as mentioned earlier.
  • Remember to keep chanting while taking a bath.
  • Offer tilānjali as mentioned above.
  • Prepare in a neighbouring house ‘pithalē-bhāt’ and partake of that. Repeat this action as mentioned earlier.

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