Bidding farewell to the Mortal: Myths regarding the Funeral and End Ceremonies

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shubhpuja.comBirth and end of mortals are a law of nature; everything that has been created by the supreme energy will vanish into it one day. In spite of being aware of it, it’s not easy to let go off someone close to our heart. Yet we have to bid farewell to our beloved ones with a heavy heart. Rituals and ceremonies are performed in both the beginning and end of a soul’s journey on earth to transform the human life into a learning and memorable experience of soul.

The ceremonies and acts involved after death of a human is a sensitive issue among society, often accompanied with various myths and superstitions that need to be dispelled. “Despite the country’s space programme which has sent satellite to Mars, many people in the country still believe in lot of superstitions and evil social practices. There is lack of awareness about scientific temper in the society which is the reason for such superstition,” said by President Pranab Mukherjee in an article published in The Indian Express.

Here few of the myths are considered, justified with facts and scientific reasoning.

 

Why to take a bath right after attending the funeral ceremonies?

Once a person is dead, the body begins the process of decomposition in five major steps including, Initial decay, Putrefaction, Black putrefaction, Butyric putrefaction, Dry decay. As the body loses the ability to fight against bacteria, at times it may prove to be harmful. Since most of the ceremonies are performed near a river, the temperate environment of India makes it more favourable for growth of bacteria. Moreover the scavengers are usually found near cremation grounds that are a major carrier of germs. So keeping the health and hygiene into perspective, bathing proves to be beneficial and it also refreshes the grief struck family members of the dead.

Why are Hindu women not allowed to go to funeral?

To be more clear and precise, none of the source of Hinduism has mentioned about the concept of ‘women are not allowed at the funerals’; in fact at the time of Mahabharata women did take part in the funeral rites. Usually the rituals are performed by the eldest son of the family but if there is no male in the family, then women can also perform those rites. In few of the societies women were prohibited because of the children and other old members at home. Women have a lot of responsibilities at home so the long journeys and the funeral ceremonies may turn to be difficult for them as they can’t stay away from the too long.

Aren’t dead bodies full of dangerous bacteria that can make the living sick?

The microorganisms involved in the process of decomposition are not necessarily disease causing organisms. In one of the Oliver Morgan’s article, he says, “most viruses and bacteria that do cause disease cannot survive more than a few hours in a dead body.” So this is more of a smell and psychological issue rather than health issue. In extreme cases, if the patient is suffering from some contagious disease, then easy precautions like covering the face and hands while handling the dead body must be taken.

Organ donation is against our religion?

As per a report by Shaunaka Rishi Das of the Oxford Centre for Vaishnava and Hindu Studies, most Hindus take the view that after the soul has departed, the body is no more than a machine, and there is nothing to stop the parts being shared with others. In fact Hinduism has mentioned ‘daan’ and ‘dharma’ as niyams in the list of 10 Niyams. So the selfless act of sharing and helping the needy is not against Hindu religion. Moreover most of the major religions approve of the humane act of organ donation. President Mukherjee says, “India has a rate of less than 0.2 donors per one million population. India suffers from organs shortage of gigantic proportions. An estimated two lakh people in our country are diagnosed with organ failure every year, needing transplantation as a life-saving mechanism.

So these are just few of the common myths, which are prevalent among our society that needs to be validated with a proper argument. Awareness is must, especially among the rural sections of the society to get rid of such superficial arguments or rather follow them with a rational approach.

 

Contributed By: Meenakshi Ahuja

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