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Funeral and Burial Customs Around the World

Published: March 7, 2022

All over the world, funeral customs and burial rituals vary from country to country and in every culture. Local governments may have a set of rules and regulations that have to be followed depending on the country. Usually, the family’s or the individual’s religious belief determines which funeral and burial rituals will be followed. Let’s look into some of the different funeral and burial customs around the world.

Funeral and Burial Rituals in India

In India, the body of the deceased is prepared for cremation according to the burial practices of a particular sect. Water from the Ganges River is considered holy and is used to sprinkle water on the floor. A white sheet is layed on top and the body is placed on it. Incense is burned because it is believed that it will bring clean spirits into the space. Then, a paste made of sandalwood and red powder is applied to the face. The body is then bathed and a white cloth is placed on top of it. Flowers are strewn all over the cloth. After the ritual, the body is carried head first to the burning ghat in a bamboo stretcher. (A burning ghat is a place where the body is cremated.)

The bamboo stretcher is then reversed to position the body with the feet forward toward the burning ghat to symbolize looking forward to a new life, a future life. The eldest son then lights the funeral pyre (a structure, usually made of wood, that the body is placed on), with the belief that it’s the only way for the dead to find peace. Afterwards, the ashes are collected and scattered in one of India’s holy rivers.

Kissing the Dead in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea has the custom of keeping the body in close contact with its relatives. The relatives kiss the body, cry over it, make promises, and ask for forgiveness for any wrong doing done in the past to the deceased. The mourning period is intense and the sad dirges (songs or poems that are chanted) add to the somber atmosphere. After the ritual is over, it is customary to have at least two lavish feasts in honor of the dead in order to ward off any form of revenge the deceased wishes to bestow.

Immortality of the Soul in Africa

The funeral rituals and passages in Africa come from the belief that a person’s soul is immortal. Close relatives feel that there is a need to appease the dead or else they will bring harm to others. Money is spent and a lot of sacrifices are offered with the hope that the dead will show favor upon the living.

Many believe in reincarnation wherein the dead will come back as an animal that is to be worshiped or as a new member of the family through a pregnant relative. In Nigeria, special care is given to the body of the dead to make sure that everything is in shape. An example is that if a body part is placed crooked in a coffin, it will show up as a birth defect in the next life. Or if a dead man is not properly dressed, then in the next life he will reincarnate as a mad man. A fear of the dead and their control on the living are the driving factors for the funeral and burial ritual in this culture.

Death is not the end. Every culture and individual may have different views of what the end actually looks like, and there is an endless array of options when it comes to planning a funeral for a loved one or pre planning for yourself. Here at Roupp Funeral Home, we’re here to assist you at any time.

Looking for ideas to create a beautiful memorial service for your loved one? Read the blog article here: 5 Ideas for a Meaningful Memorial Service

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