The Last Ritual

Published On: Sivanaspirit

Antyeṣṭi Sanskara (अन्त्येष्टि)– The Last Ritual, is to pay tribute to the departed soul following to sacred tradition in Hindu Scriptures. There are altogether sixteen samskara (rituals) performed in Hinduism. Starting from the Garbhadhan which is performed at the conception for the purpose of conceiving a child as the first samskara, to the last which is called as Antyeshti samskara. After Antyeshti is completed, it is considered that Atma is permanently separated from the deceased body and has left the physical world. There is a close bonding between the Atma (soul) and the body all over the life. Once the physical body has served its purpose and is unable to sustain life further, the Jiva (soul) has to give up the current form of the body and has to move to the next form of life. The next form is as per his Karma.

Cremation is the most common method of funeral ceremony performed in Hinduism. However, certain groups and castes do not cremate in Hinduism. They bury the physical body. Ascetics and children are also generally buried or floated in the running water.

In Hinduism the body and soul are two separate entities. The ancient scriptures says- the soul once it is separated from the deceased body it is reluctant to leave the body, since it has desire and is attached with the corpse. The soul is very broken to see all his family and friends in pain and agony. Soul do not want to leave the physical body. It has a connection with the world through the body it has known so long. Once the cremation of the deceased body is fulfilled, in which Agni Sanskara is performed it cuts off atma feeling and attachment with the physical body.

In Hinduism, everything in the universe including the human body is made of basic five elements. These five elements (called as Panchtatva) connotes the elements i.e. Sky (Akash), Wind (Vayu), Fire (Agni), Water (Jal) and Earth (Prithvi). The Agni (Fire) which is the last rite is the passage of returning the body back to the five elements to its origin.

In cremation, the family and friends take the deceased body to the cremation ground. The cremation ground, which should be purified and the fire is lit with 100 kgs of wood, ghee(cow clarified butter) and body. Mantras are recited and the body is offered to fire. This is the final purification rite of the physical body. And the body is reduced to its five elements. Also post death rituals, the surviving family makes donations to charity on the deceased’s behalf, which also helps to give peace to the soul.

The roots of this sanskara are also found in Vedas. Rigveda says-

Burn him not up, nor quite consume him, Agni: let not his body or his skin be scattered,
O all possessing Fire, when thou hast matured him, then send him on his way unto the Fathers.
When thou hast made him ready, all possessing Fire, then do thou give him over to the Fathers,
When he attains unto the life that waits him, he shall become subject to the will of gods.
The Sun receives thine eye, the Wind thy Prana (life-principle, breathe); go, to earth or heaven.
Go, if it be thy lot, unto the waters; go, make thine home in plants with all thy members. 

— Rigveda 10.16[11]

Funeral ceremonies are also described in detail in other scriptures, like Atharvaveda, In the Arnayaka of Krishna Yajurveda and later Sutras as well.

After the soul leaves the body it maintains some connection with the existing physical world. This period is around 13 days. The family also maintained a very close connection with the deceased during this period and recalls the person. All the final ceremonies related with cremation and mourning are performed during this period. The ceremonies help to maintain the separation of both deceased between the family and the deceased.

For these 13 days, Hindus recite the Garuda Purana with the other prayers to help the soul get departed and reach its final destination. It is believed when the Aatma leaves the body it adopts another spiritual form which is a subtle body and grows slowly day by day. The tenth day after the death, the interim spiritual soul grows completely and the family of the deceased offers the Pindas (food balls made of rice and water) for the development of Jivas for the next life. During this period the soul is called as pret on which one is departed from the physical world and not reached to next.

On the eleventh day the prayers are performed for the soul to reach in witness of God Vishnu and Yama(God Of death). On twelve and thirteen day the soul reaches to the next world and resides with the forefather called Pitra (ancestors). And the Antyeṣṭi is considered as completed. Every year the family performs the ritual in a specific month called Sharaad as the symbol of remembrance and respect of ancestors for the deceased.

In the end the truth is- anyone who is born will die and only karma goes with the soul..

What does the Vedas teach us, in this Pandemic

Published On: Opindia 

Our newly emerged worst enemy from China has brought the whole world to its knees. More than 2.5 million people have been infected worldwide, in this pandemic so far. Almost one-third of the human population is living under lockdown currently. A new type of psychosomatic experimentation is being conducted on humankind in this pandemic. No one knows the aftermath of this pandemic and when it is going to end. But one question is arising certainly,

Where is God in this Pandemic?

In some religions, they are saying, the coronavirus itself is an act of God, some are saying it is a deed of human punishment. Honestly, we do not know, but undoubtedly many customs followed in Hinduism, is beneficial to fight with this novel Coronavirus and the western world is supporting it wholeheartedly. The practices which were mentioned in the oldest scriptures of Hinduism in Vedas are scientifically proven in reducing the spreading of the deadly virus. The whole world is following Hinduism practices more than ever before this pandemic.

One such precaution to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 is ‘Namaste’ (Namaskaram), and it is becoming a global salutation trend now. More and more people, especially global leaders are doing namaste rather than a handshake, kissing, or bowing. Recently some of the top world leaders like Prince Charles, Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron, and others were spotted doing namaste. Namaste is derived from Sanskrit and is a combination of the word ‘namas’ and ‘te’ which means “I bow to the divine in you”. Namaskritya and other such related terms appeared in Rigveda especially in ‘Vivaha Sukta’. It is a traditional way of greeting in India for thousands of years. Recently U.S. President Donald Trump said ‘India ahead of the curve’, after greeting Irish PM with namaste..

Hygiene and quarantine were always important in Hinduism for health, mental, and social reasons. Even during the Vedic age, many of the hygiene practices were followed and are mentioned in Vedas. These hygiene practices are part of Hinduism and followed from many centuries in India. These practices are very much required in the present day during this Pandemic. Some of these practices are like washing hands with antiseptics/germicides after urination or defecation. Though these antiseptics were made from turmeric, neem, and replaced now by sanitizers, handwash in the present day. Washing our hands before and after having food. Putting down sleepers outsides of house and many more such small traditions where followed. Similarly, if someone dies, the entire family is like quarantine for the rest of the village was another way hygiene which is followed. Also during the menstruation cycle, women were something like social distancing. similarly in many such scenarios families or person was in quarantine or at least social distancing was followed. These practices were followed to keep our self-safe and hygienic. Albeit our enemies slightly change, but still in the world of technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, IoT we are following similar practices which were laid down thousands of years earlier.

Well, we all are trying their best to stay calm and relax, but still, stress levels are reaching an all-time high in lockdown. Even now, we have a long way to go. The whole world is worried, how this all will impact our lives, business, jobs, health, and finances. People are trying more and more ways to place stress under control. One of the easiest and effective ways that the world is doing –Meditation. Harvard Medical School recently published that the easiest way to reduce stress, anxiety is meditation. More and more apps, smartwatches are offering modern technology these days that can guide you to meditate, reduce stress and stay focused. New Articles, blogs are published and shared every day on Mediation and yoga all across the Internet. The word meditation itself means dhyanam, which factors self-learning, conciliation with self. The word dhyanam has appeared many times in Vedas starting Rigveda like appearance is in Verse 10.11.1 of the Taittiriya Aranyaka. Similarly appeared in Kauhitaki Upanishads 3.2 where it talks about mind and meditation in prayer.

Corona virus Is also changing the rituals followed after the demise. The majority of governments are choosing cremation over burial, irrespective of their religion. Sri Lanka, Philippines, and other countries or states have made cremations compulsory in coronavirus deaths. Even western countries like in the USA, cremations have surpassed burials as the most popular end of life option. WHO says to conduct a safe and dignified burial of a patient who has died from a suspected virus like ebola. Cremation is a major practice that is followed in Hinduism from the early period. And a standard practice in cremation is that dead bodies are not ethical to touch. People need to take a bath after coming from cremations. Antyeṣṭi or Antima Sanskara is a Sanskrit word for cremations in Hinduism. Word antya and iṣṭi respectively mean “last” and “sacrifice”. And “Antima Sanskara” means “last sacred ceremony”. In Hinduism, it is considered that the human body and the whole universe consists of five elements – air, water, fire, earth, and space. The last rite of ritual is to return the body to its five elements of the origin. The roots of these beliefs are very old and can be found in the Vedas, in the hymns of Rigveda section 10.16.

Now more and more health organizations are warning about the health-related risks associated with eating meat after these pandemics. Raising animals for food was always a breeding ground for diseases that can be easily transmitted to humans. Health experts believe COVID-19 originated at a “wet market” in China, where shops sell both live and dead animals for human consumption. It is still not proved that the meat industry is entirely responsible for the corona virus, but yes corona virus and similarly many other Pandemics in the past have always been linked with animals. It is found that 6 out of 10 most Infectious diseases come from Animals like H1N1 swine flu, H5N1 bird flu, Ebola, SARS, and many more.

The WHO says 70% of global disease-causing pathogens discovered in the past 50 years came from animals. More and more news is emerging these days from all parts of the world after this deadly virus is to stop eating meat and to go vegan strictly which is a known practice in Hinduism from centuries. As we all know that prevention is always better than cure. Although there are no vaccines for this pandemic until now, the best step is to take measures to elevate the immunity, so there will be fewer chances of getting infected by this disease. Despite there is no such unique food, fruits, or medicine that can be a guarantee to boost the immune system and protect us against coronavirus immediately.

Still, vegetables and fruits are the best examples of immune-boosting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of the key nutrients that are important in immunity are mentioned in Ayurveda. Some examples of such immunity-boosting herbs are turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garlic which are commonly used in an Indian family.

Published Date: 23 April 2020