Beliefs about death and dying, and life after death

Hindus believe in reincarnation and a cycle of rebirths. 

Funerals and other ceremonies

A Hindu funeral is as much a celebration as a remembrance service. Hindus cremate their dead as it is the soul that has importance, not the body which is no longer needed. 

White is the traditional colour and mourners usually wear traditional Indian garments. (If you are attending the funeral and are not Hindu, it may be worth asking what appropriate dress will be.) 

During the service, offerings such as flowers or sweetmeats may be passed around and bells rung; sound is a part of the ritual. 

The chief mourner, usually the eldest son if there is one, and other male members of the family, may shave their heads as a mark of respect. 

In India, the chief mourner lights the funeral pyre. In the UK, in a crematorium, he will press the button for the coffin to move behind the curtain and, in some instances, may be permitted to ignite the cremator. In the UK women now also press the button for the coffin, i.e. daughters and other female family members, as traditions have been relaxed.

Rituals and customs around death and dying

Ashes may be taken back to India to be scattered on the River Ganges. In the UK, some areas of water have been designated as acceptable substitutes. 

Length of and expectations around a mourning period

An intense period of mourning lasts for 13 days following the funeral and involves all family and friends. It is customary during this time for family and friends to show their respect by grieving with the family either at their home or at a chosen temple. 

The immediate family of the person who has died is considered to be in mourning for a year. During this time some of the traditions will limit or restrict participation in events, festivals or social activities. 

We made his funeral more of a celebration of his life.

KSAVI, who was supported by Child Bereavement UK after her baby son, Shivai, died aged eight months 

Support organisations

Our grateful thanks for their input into this resource to:

Suman Mumtaz, Child Bereavement UK

Kavita Mehta, Child Bereavement UK