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Burning The Effigy Of A Person In Hinduism When Dead Body Is Not Found

The ritual of burning the effigy of a person, known as "akrtidahana," in Hinduism is a unique practice mentioned in the dharmashastras. This ritual is recommended in cases where there is sufficient evidence to believe that an individual may have died, but neither the body nor its parts are available for cremation. It serves as a symbolic act of cremation when the physical remains are absent.

To perform akrtidahana, an effigy is crafted using palasha (Butea frondosa) stalks and leaves, totaling 360 in number. These stalks are arranged according to a prescribed manner, with specific numbers allocated for different parts of the effigy, such as 40 pieces for the head, 20 for the chest, 30 for the abdomen, and so on. If the person had maintained the Vedic fires, their sacrificial vessels are also consigned to the fire, akin to a regular cremation ceremony when the body is present.

It's important to note that this ritual is based on the belief that the person might have passed away even if the physical body is not found. In the event that the individual is alive and returns, all the samskaras or sacraments, including remarrying his own wife, need to be repeated as if he were undergoing the rituals anew.

This practice reflects the intricate and nuanced nature of Hindu rituals, with provisions for unique circumstances that may arise, demonstrating the adaptability and diversity within the religion's cultural and religious practices.