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What Is a Traditional Hindu Funeral?

With over one billion followers around the globe, Hinduism is considered the third-largest religion in the world. It’s notably known for its belief in reincarnation.

To Hindus, death is a part of a cycle that precedes rebirth to a different form—a person’s next life. This important life stage is why a traditional Hindu funeral practices specific ways of sending off the deceased.

Importance of Funerals to Hinduism

Because reincarnation is a central tenet of Hinduism, believers pay high regard to peaceful and right passages after death. Funerals are done to accomplish two points. One is to give family members time to say their goodbyes to their loved ones. Two is to facilitate the separation of the soul from the physical body.

In Hinduism, a dead body can prevent the soul from moving on to the next life. It’s why funerals happen in a short period, often with quick, methodical steps.

Stages of a Traditional Hindu Funeral

1. Wake

The wake happens immediately after death. The dead body is placed in an open casket where family members and friends can gather to recite prayers or hymns.

2. Cremation Ceremony (Mukhagni)

Hindu practices dictate that cremation is the fastest way to free a soul from the physical body. This typically happens 24 hours after death. It lasts for no more than 30 minutes and is traditionally attended by men led by a Hindu priest. Modern practices, especially on deaths happening overseas, allow women to join the ceremony.

Common practices observed during cremation involve anointing the dead with essential oils and placing flower garlands around the body. 

3. Shraddha Ceremony

The Shraddha ceremony happens between the 11th and 31st day after death. It’s a ceremony of remembrance or commemoration and is done to guide the soul in its journey to reincarnation. Shraddha also gives more families and friends who missed the wake and cremation a chance to offer condolences to the bereaved. 

Hindu Funeral and Mourning Period

The funeral rites typically last for only 30 minutes. However, this can vary depending on the family’s specific requests or the deceased person’s wishes before their passing. The mourning period can last up to 30 days. 

Dress Code for a Hindu Funeral

Wearing white is the safest way to go. White symbolizes purity in Hinduism and is associated with respect. Alternatively, you can go with soft, pastel colours like modern Hindu families. Avoid wearing black, as it’s associated with evil and negative energy. 

As for the outfit itself, you should go with something comfortable and casual. And women are traditionally encouraged to wear clothes that cover the arms and knees.


Organizing or attending a traditional Hindu funeral can be tricky to navigate. The time window for each step is tight, and family requirements can vary. So whether you’re a guest or a family of the deceased, it pays to know the basics.