How Should I Behave at a Hindu Funeral?

The Hindu religion is the third largest religion in the world. As such, there are many sects and subsects that practice funeral rites in different ways. To get the best idea of how a family will conduct a funeral ceremony, burial or cremation, contact the family of the deceased. What follows is a general overview of some Hindu funeral traditions and the etiquette involved.

Here at Callaghan Mortuary & Livermore Crematory, we help families of all faiths lay their loved ones to rest in the appropriate manner. For those of the Hindu faith, we wish to help usher the decedent into their next life. Here are a few ways you can also show respect when attending a Hindu funeral.

Details About a Hindu Funeral

There are three parts to a Hindu funeral:

  • The wake or funeral, which is traditionally held in the family’s home
  • The burial or cremation ceremony (MukhAgni)
  • A ceremony to help the soul pass

The funeral and burial or cremation generally happen within 24 hours of the decedent’s passing. Around 10 or more days later, the family will hold a ceremony to help the decedent’s soul into the next life. Depending on the family and sect, the family may invite some friends to these rituals. If invited, understand that it is a sign of esteem. Please show the proper respect in such an instance.

How Should I Act at a Hindu Funeral?

If invited to one or all of the rituals at a Hindu funeral, it is important to maintain a calm demeanor. These funerary traditions encourage a positive environment to help the decedent’s journey. Therefore, excessive displays of mourning are distasteful.

If you are not a part of the Hindu religion, you are not expected to participate in the prayers or hymns that occur. However, you are welcome to join in if you wish. If you are not participating, sitting quietly is appropriate.

At the funeral, there will likely be an open casket. Guests should view the body (without touching), offer their condolences to the family, and then take their seats quietly. The funeral usually lasts around 30 minutes but may vary depending upon the family and their wishes.

What Should I Wear?

When choosing your attire for the funeral, you should avoid the color black. According to Hindu traditions, the customary color to wear at a Hindu funeral is white. Dress for men can be casual, but women’s attire should cover the arms and knees. You may also wear open-toed shoes, and head coverings for men or women are optional. Women may wear jewelry but should keep their jewelry understated and non-flashy.

Should I Bring a Gift or Flowers?

The appropriateness of flowers and gifts varies from family to family. Some may accept flowers during the wake before the MukhAgni, while others prefer them during the mourning period after the cremation ceremony. Some families accept the gift of food during the mourning period as well, since some families abstain from cooking in their home for a period after the decedent’s passing. Asking the family what they would prefer is the best way to ensure that you are taking the appropriate actions.

Callaghan Mortuary & Crematory Is Ready to Help

There are many customs and rituals to observe in order to properly honor your loved one at the end of his or her life. Our Livermore mortuary and crematorium are ready to serve. We can provide transport from your home to the burial site or crematory, and we can help plan the ceremony to fit the needs of your faith.

Let our family help your family honor your loved one.