A Guide to Hindu Funeral Customs and Traditions



“As with other religions, Hindu funeral rites and traditions vary to match the wants and needs of each religious sect and each family.”


Hinduism is the world’s third most popular religion. It is estimated that nearly a billion people follow it. Hinduism, unlike other religions, has no founder and no common creed or theory. The religion, which is most common among Asian Indians, believes that God exists within and beyond all beings and objects in the universe. It teaches that each soul’s essence is divine and that the purpose of existence is to become aware of that divine essence.

What Is A Hindu Funeral?

Hindu death rituals determine that cremation is the norm, but the body remains in the family’s home until it has been moved to the cremation place.

  • A Hindu funeral may consist of three parts:
  • A wake/funeral in the family’s home.
  • A cremation ceremony (“mukhagni”).
  • A “shraddha” ceremony.

The actual funeral takes place at home, although the actual event could be considered a wake by western standards, due to its short length. After the body has been removed from the home, the cremation ritual takes place in the crematory. There may also be a third Hindu funeral ceremony (shraddha) that occurs about 10 days after death. 

Why is the River Ganges important in Hindu funerals?

In India, Hindu cremations are traditionally held on the banks of the Ganges River. The family takes the body to the cremation site on the riverbanks for the final ceremonies, believing that this location is critical to helping their loved one to leave the cycle of life and death and achieve nirvana, or enlightenment.

Hindu Death Rituals

A variety of Hindu and Indian death rituals honour the deceased and also support reincarnation. The family comes together to perform numerous rituals, such as:


Special ingredients like milk, honey, ghee, and yogurt are used in body washing.

Essential Oils:

Sandalwood for males and turmeric for ladies can be used to anoint the person’s head.


A plain white sheet is used to dress the deceased in traditional Indian death rituals. More modern practices allowing for more elegant clothing.

Flowers and rice:

Funeral attendants may surround the loved ones with a garland of flowers and rice balls (known as pinda). Basil leaves, for example, can also be used to adorn the body.


Some traditional customs involve placing a lamp near the deceased person’s head.


Sprinkling water on the body is a cleansing symbol.

Scattering the Ashes:

According to Hindu funeral rites and rituals, the scattering of cremated ashes takes place. The family selects a sacred body of water (such as the Ganges River in India), or an alternative place of importance, for the scattering.

Planning a Hindu funeral ceremony

Funeral Homes professionals have the knowledge and experience required to assist in the planning and execution of a Hindu funeral and cremation ceremony. Our funeral homes offer cremation services.

We can help you with honoring Hindu funeral traditions, planning a funeral in a short amount of time, or hiring a Hindu priest to lead the service.

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