Monday, July 8, 2013

Inconsistent funeral rites - முரண்பாடான ஈமச்சடங்கு

[Ennapa ni, kaalaiyileh yelevu patthi yeluthureh? - expected reactions, but I see some disturbing trends in funerals nowadays]

In the cycle of life, we can't possibly ignore the fact that we will be dead on one fine day. Funeral rites are part and parcel of our Hindu custom. Of late, whenever I have to visit/attend any funeral of a friend or relative, I find that every funeral is being 'uniquely confusing', or its better to say inconsistently performed. 

Before we go into the rites and customs, lets start from the mourners and visitors. I wonder if many are ignorant on the traditional color of mourning a Hindu's death is white, where one who attend a funeral/cremation should be dressed in simple white clothes. Unfortunately, we can see maximum 'chinggu cha chinggu cha' colorful dressings, some even with elaborate jewelries like they are heading for a kaathu kutthu function. Adeh kaalam poreh pokkil, vellei sattei engge naan poyi tedi potu vareh? Summa jeans, tshirt patthathaa? Yeah, even when going to temple we can see all kind of inappropriate dressings, let alone funerals.

If not everyone, at least some majority can start this 'uniformity'

Next comes the rites and rituals. I've personally witnessed all sort of 'performance' by the undertakers (not WWE related). There are many types of undertakers, some trained, some self taught, some fast & furious, some slow and steady, some with hours of chanting, some with minutes of mumbling, some with exorbitant expenses, some simple bin sempoi, some are structured, some are ambiguous, some sober, some are even drunk!

There don't seem to be any fixed rituals performed, everyone has their own way. Worse case when, family members, friends, foes, munaavathu veedu mama, turatthu sontham, teriyatha bantham starts give comments, suggestions, objections, threats and teachings to the poor undertakers. Everything gets messed up, some people gets fed up. Why don't the 'wholesale authority' of Hinduism in the country, come up with clear guidelines on funeral rites/rituals and conduct trainings on that? Something like Kursus/Program Pengurusan Jenazah conducted by state Islamic bodies? Athu kastham tambi, ellarum course pogeh mudiyathuleh. Then don't get into the funeral business lah!

The Chinese community has formal training program/facility for undertakers.

Recently there's another trend mushrooming around our community, musical funerals. Nothing wrong with it, but if the lead singers are female, and they sing and drum their way till they're heard in another village, something is not right. I witnessed a troupe which 'entertained' the dead, of which I was so afraid the dead will get up and slap them hard. They were so loud, coarse and plain irritating. Athu athuku oru murainu irukuleh? Summa kaatu katthu katthi, nambe mandeiku mani adikathingehlah! There seems to be acute shortage of Hindus to perform these musicals, as a result you may have come accross many Chinese singing funeral & Sivan songs so precisely and passionately at Hindu funerals.

As long don't end up like this, OK lah.

Finally, after all the ooh and aahs completed with oppari paadal CD launching (occasionally interluded by fist fights and kette kette varthaigal), the body of the dead is brought to the pyre in a crematorium. Here more shocking scenes are seen. Traditionally NO female family members or relatives are allowed to set foot in a crematorium, in addition to that women are not allowed to participate in certain rituals and funeral ceremonies, they are not even allowed to visit the cremation grounds. But now the curious ladies, some with young children are allowed right near the burning pyre, be it electric or open cremation!! Ennayah nadakathu inggeh? Yaruku labam, piragu unggel pillaiku peyi ottum poli samiyargalukuthaan. The sad part is, elderly people are not attempting to stop this nonsense from continuing, even if they do I don't think these maangga mandeh manusis will listen anyway. Again, guidelines are needed.

Post-funeral customs are also modified to suit the fast-paced lives of 'ultra-busy, multimillionaire' family members and relatives. The norm is, anyone who've performed the final rites for the dead, are to follow a strict vegetarian diet and abstaining from attending any temple function/prayer, feast or auspicious occasions for at least 16 days as the mark of respect to the departed soul and in accordance to the generic Hindu custom. Some undertakers are very strict on this matter, some says only 10 days enough, some goes on to 7 days, while there's a few who gave mega sale discounts to just 3 days of vege diet!

If we can't even follow this simple sacrifice of abstinence from food and entertainment, don't bother to cry out loud and pull the coffin walls apart in the process, to show intense 'mourning'! Stay home, watch Astro, eat idlis with meen curry.

Nallathaa irunthalum, yelevaa irunthalum, seiyurathai olungga seiyanum, seiya teriyatti kehttu terinjikanum!

Some useful links:


  1. agreed on your comment, when tell the ladies you shouldnt go to the cremetorium, they will ask " kadaval sonanggela na povekudathene" nowadays is the trend to ask question whether the god to us directly or via email or via sms. the old ritual and do"s and Dont's are vanishing slowly.
    They should understand there is always a reason behind it. But what is the reason is the question of this people. sash we should come up with this book la. instant millionaire.

    1. book? after we publish there will millions of 'corrections' from the so called authorities in Hinduism. But sounds tempting, I'd be the publisher, anyone else wanna write?

  2. very well said.being a woman myself,whenever i tell these to the other ladies,they get mad at me.they will angrily say im being so prejudice.each of the funeral rite is different from another.this is not only for funeral but same goes to much different and confusing!

    1. in that confusion we are losing our culture, while someone makes money out of our ignorance

  3. Guess, rather than giving a statement, it'll be good if someone can reason out things, like why ladies and kids are not allowed. Nowadays people have started questioning and like the movie Ellam Arivu, if only our custom rites are being explained to the younger ones, they'll understand it and follow it. After all, Hinduism had changed over the years and it's time to trace back the roots!

    1. read online: women are not allowed to participate in certain rituals and on some occasions their very presence is considered inauspicious, which add to the stigma of infertility

    2. absurd. the very presence of women is inauspicious? why the double standard?
      and i agree wholly that instead of just saying Don't, give a proper reason. there is a logical reason behind everything our ancestors have come up with, and they may not be necessary any more. times have changed.
      youngsters these days are very inquisitive. they want a reason for everything, no one wants to follow a religion blindly. so please, before starting to accuse and point fingers, trace Hinduism back to its roots. you'll be surprised.

    3. aiyo I didn't say it. read it online sometime ago.

  4. I've come.across a few books related to the matter in terms of rites. Funny thing is why is it 16days of pantang?? Then they'll go on to say cannot go to temple for 30days. Why if they go before that?? Samy kannu kuttings? Well if you ask me mourning depends on oneself.

    1. I believe, we don't go to temple and other auspicious events because, you have to concentrate and complete all the required rituals for the dead, before taking part in other auspicious events.

      Just like when a mother delivers a child, they are not supposed to temple for 30 days, because there will be discharge like their menses up till 30 days. Unclean, weak.

    2. Women who deliver are not allowed to go to temple because in their recovery state they are weak. they have not built up strength and can attract negative energy (Think a child who is born without vaccination and taken out, the child could contract diseases) likewise going to a temple which is high positive energy can have an effect to the already weak woman.This is also the case of a woman who has menses. That is why in the temple when you walk in the main door you cross over either a calvet or metal rod.

  5. Speaking of funeral rites i agree with what Sashi is saying, there is no standardization when it comes to not only funeral but other rites as well. From temple pooja, kumbhabishegam, wedding ceremonies and almost all others connected to Hinduism. Coming to what Sashi meantioned, Hindu funeral rites basically there is only 2 types 1, you burn the corpse 2, you bury the corpse. If we notice the north Indians have different rite and the Souths have different rites as well. Even the Souths have different styles for example even the Tamil community have different rites and customs depending on their Jaathi(i hope im not opening Pandora's box here, just an observation)for example the Tamil Gaunders say that the pantang period (mourning)is 3 days, the Ceylonese Tamils say its 30 days, most other Tamil folks say its 16 days but cannot go to temple for 30days(still trying to figure out where the days numbering system came from). And yes again to Sashi, funeral nows days is becoming a fanfare, its almost all is about giving a grand sendoff and of course seeing who can cry the most and faint 48 times in 2 hours. Some bands are ridiculous eg: China man singing Om nama Shivaya in a very funny accent. I went to one recently felt almost like i was in India, they actually had tappu(a kind of indian drum) complete with drunks dancing (LOL!!). From my personal perspective i believe that it’s entirely up to the family on how they want the funeral to be held and also the attendees should be sensitive when attending these ceremonies. As part of rites are concerned no way of standardizing it. It depends on how the master of ceremonies has attained their knowledge. Another thing when the question on why these are done like these and not like that, the elders say it’s been done in that the particular manner for years...(actually they have no clue as well)You want prove? Try asking the oldies on why the "theethu is 16 days" this is an example laa. Sashi as for books on the funeral rites i believe that there is one published by Scott Road Kandaswamy temple. Saya punya 2 sen.

  6. 'Makkeh sonangeh' people once told me, in the older days, women are very much devoted to husband and family, and when their man departed, they wont able to accept the fact, and during the cremation (which was open fire those days), their emotion happen to over take their logical thinking and jump onto the fire and attempt follow their husband. There have been such events occurred.

    So, that is the main reason why ladies and women not allowed to the crematorium. And as people and technology advanced, many is able to pull themselves together and attend it. (I'm not saying its right action though)

    There is always a logic and explanation behinds every taboo, rituals and etc. With proper and factual explanation, it will be good to educate all.

    Not sure mine is correct or not, but this can be categorized under 'why you can't cut nail on night time'.


  7. Sashi, I just read this piece.
    It is just because we live in a multi religious society and that is why you feel like this.

    I am totally against set rules and regulations as having them goes against the basic tenet of Hinduism. This freedom is not found in the Abrahamic religions which is abound in Malaysia and we must hold our guard against the imposition of such ant-free wills.

    Besides the religious factor, funerals also involve a lot of culture and each community (within the Tamil community) have thier own do's and don'ts.
    And that is why you see minor differences among various funerals. At the end of the day, they follow the principle of ashes-to-ashes / dust-to-dust and that is why you have prayers to Sivan during the mourning period and to Lakshmi Narayanan when it is over, recognising that life is a cycle.

    As for ladies going to funeral parlours etc, we should accept that culture changes over time. Previously most people died of contagious diseases and people in mourning were prohibited from community-gathering places like temples, to contain the diseases.

    Women were not allowed to temple when they are having menses, but this was long before the usage of sanitary pads, etc. Things have changed a lot since then.
    We are using brass utensils for prayers when once they were only clay-made. We use smokeless camphors, instant saambraani etc, not only to keep up with times but also for convenience.

    Thus change is not to be objected. Culture is for people to live harmoniously and not the other way round.

    1. All that is OK, but loud music and adding some new rituals to make money is not right? Right? :)

  8. Want to know about Tamil funeral rituals, I'm I'm Melbourne

  9. hello bro! good write up! u felt me bro! 3 days back, beloved peripa passed away and i undetook the kolli-vekkiran" ritual since he has no sons.. sigh. when the caretaker was instructing on what to do, my kepo grandma's sister kept interrupting him till he got fed up. not only dat. post funeral, every indian aunty who was at home come with different instructions on what to do, ie, right after coming ack from the funeral grounds, we shouldnt show sambrani to the deceased peripa photo. and so much more.. worse must put salt infront the pic, must put water outside the door.. the thing is, every indian aunty's comment seems to contradict with the other indian aunties comments.. i thik its the best to put all the indian aunties in 1 box and shot them! already my perima was so distressed over the sudden death, these people are just rubbing salt to the wound

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