Cultural differences: Mourning

In Nepal, people cry buckets when someone dies. The dead is cremated in a funeral pyre which is lighted by immediate male relative. In a good news, these days a lot of women are performing the last rites for their deceased relatives as well. After the body is turned into ashes, it is placed into a pot and flown in river as a part of Hindu belief that their soul will be transported to heaven and will escape the cycle of rebirth. The whole cremation process is very raw. The body is cremated alongside holy river and some water from the river is placed into the mouth of the deceased as a part of final rites. Before placing the body on pyre, all clothes are taken off, with the Hindu belief that one goes naked as he comes naked to his world.

This whole process deeply irked me when I was a child. Even now, but since I don’t live in Nepal anymore I don’t have to witness it. Since the bodies are cremated in a famous Hindu temple on the banks of a holy river in Kathmandu, I couldn’t escape it during my childhood visits to the temple with parents. As a result, going to that temple was always a surreal experience.

Here in the West, I see that the mourners dress well and are rarely seen wailing as opposed to how it is done back in Nepal. In Nepal, dressing up is also not encouraged at all at the time of mourning and plain white clothes are preferred. The cladding of the dead in nice clothing and makeup hereย is also pretty different from what I’m used to. While every process or culture has its share of pros and cons, I like how there is always a place to come back to and leave flowers and remember the passed one here. We don’t have that option in Nepal and once the person is dead, all we have left is memories. This is due the Hindu belief in reincarnation i.e the soul takes birth in another body, and the physical state is useless after death.

While the cremation saves the trouble of space and is handy in crowded cities, it also contributes significantly to the land, water and air pollution of the area. There should be more organized ways of doing it keeping in mind the environment. On the other hand, burial means that you can always come back to theย grave and remember the passed one.

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6 thoughts on “Cultural differences: Mourning

  1. When I die, I don’t want to be buried somewhere and have a fancy gravestone, which hints where my remains could be found.

    If I needed all this just to be remembered by my loved ones I would have clearly done something wrong in life.

    I do not believe in the religion behind it but I prefer the Nepali or the Hindu way, to be precise.
    P.S.: I can’t believe, that cremation would be a major contributor to pollution. Aren’t there other grave factors as industry or automobile exhaust?

    1. Daniel, I can understand what you mean. The idea behind cremation isn’t so illogical, but the process of how it’s done is too graphic and raw. I guess at some time I’ll have to come in terms with that.

      Thanks for reminding, it was a mistake to write, “a major” contributor when I meant to write about its big negative impact on the immediate surroundings. Edited ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. I’m sorry Pooja. It wasn’t meant to point towards a mistake, it was merely meant to be seen as a question and a statement that I can’t believe that cremating bodies has a bigger negative impact on the environment as thousand cars on the street. Well, unless there are 1001 dead to be cremated every day.

        From the dead person’s perspective, I wouldn’t care to be displayed naked in public. I would be dead – I wouldn’t have any care in the world at that point but yes, I can understand that this irked you, especially when you were a child.

        (Just to be sure: I didn’t want to make any statement in the way that the rite is logical or illogical nor oppose your opinion on anything. I should have checked my answer for that beforehand.)

  2. I just watched a video on youtube “Hindu Cremations at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu Nepal” and while the corpses were covered in blankets, the fact, that you actually saw them burning, is really disturbing. I would get nightmares from the experience of seeing my family member consumed by fire.

    In the Western culture, the cremetion is usually closed from the sight of the moaners and closed from the public.

  3. I couldn’t imagine being buried underground. I want to be cremated (not influenced by Hinduism). Both sides of my Australian/irish grandparents want both, my grandfather wanted to be buried. my other grandfather wants to be cremated as does my grandmother. interesting hey. I think people mourn and grieve more privately over here compared to Nepal. I don’t think it means you loved that person any less though ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hmm that’s interesting! I haven’t yet decided what I would like my closed ones to do with my dead body..

      Nope that doesn’t mean at all the person is less loved! ๐Ÿ™‚ Nepali people often think that Western people don’t really have solid relationships of love and closeness with one other, that gives a topic for another post..Thanks for stopping by!

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