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Hindu Death Rituals In Bengal

As per Hindu custom in Bengal, any death in the family is followed by ritual penance for a certain number of days. Some communities observe penance for ten days, while some do so for fifteen days. The food they eat during these days is very simple, pure, without much spice and strictly vegetarian. The days of penance are followed by the final obsequies.

At the cremation ground, the eldest son of the dead person gives a ritual bath to the dead body and covers it with a new unstitched cloth. The body is laid towards the south, garlanded and anointed with sandal paste. The eldest son then lights the funeral pyre.

If a sick person is dying, he/she is shifted out of the room and moved to the courtyard near the Tulsi plant. The eldest son and others pour drops of water into his/her mouth. A copy of the Bhagavad Gita is generally placed on the chest of the dead person. If a married woman dies, her body is covered with a red-bordered sari and her forehead is touched with vermillion. It is only after these rituals that the body is carried to the pyre.

If a child passes away he/she is normally buried. If a pregnant woman dies, the body of the woman and the fetus are cremated separately.

If a woman loses her husband, she casts off her ornaments and wears white sari.

On the thirteenth day after death, a ceremony called Shraddha is performed, when relatives are invited to a feast to mark the onward movement of the soul of the dead person.