Funeral rituals have been a part of human life since ancient times and they have been widely accepted by a variety of religions around the world. There is evidence that people cremated bodies in China as early as 7000 B.C., while monks in Tibet have a quite different approach when it comes to funeral rituals.
There is a variety of practices when it comes to saying goodbye. Lets look at some of these bizarre funeral rituals.
Sati - India
Sati or Sutee is a Hindu funeral, which is very popular in India. The ritual dates back to 2nd century BC. During the ritual the widow immolates herself on her husband’s pyre or commits suicide shortly after her husband’s death. This ritual was prominent in during the British era in India, but today it is illegal since Queen Victoria banned it in 1861. Some believe it is still practiced in small rural villages.
In mythology, Sati was the name of the wife of Shiva. Her father never respected Shiva and often despised him. To protest against the hatred that her father held for her husband, she burned herself. While she was burning, she prayed to be reincarnated as Shiva’s wife again. This happened, and she was called Parvati.
Sati is considered to be the greatest form of devotion of a wife towards her deceased husband. With time, this practice became a forced one and many women were forced to commit suicide in different ways.
Women who committed sati were said to have died chaste, which, many believed, meant they would have a better karma and a better life in her next birth.
The extent to which Sati was practised in history is not very clear, however, during the modern Mughal period, it was closely associated with Hindu Rajput clans in India.
Sati was at its peak between the early 16th and the late 18th centuries. During this days, more than 900 widows were burned alive every year, most commonly in India and Nepal.
Sky Burial in Tibet
Even though it is not considered a cremation ritual, the so-called Sky Burial with all of its bizarreness is in our list. This form of burial involves placing the body of the deceased on the mountain hills. The body is left exposed as the scavengers and birds feed on it. This way of burial is believed to help for the easy departing of the soul, among the locals.
Due to the fact that birds (vultures) consume the remains of the body, this type of burial is also called “bird burial”. In Tibet, there are other ways to bury bodies after death, including water burial and cremation.
Tibetan Buddhists believe that the body is nothing but a discarded shell. The spirit of the dead has already moved on, through death and toward a new way of reborn. For Buddhists in Tibet and Mongolia, offering their bodies to vultures is the last great hing to do.
The most notorious places for sky burials are the monasteries of Ganden and Drigung in Tibet.
With sky burial, there is no need to use the land to bury the body. This also a sort of environmental protection.
Professional mourning in China
China is one of the countries with the oldest cremation rituals. The rituals often involve various ceremonies before cremating and burying the dead.
For example, the rich families in China often hire professional mourners since they are too busy in other arrangements. Usually they are young women and they are paid well for their mourning, not only by the family, but also by people who are too busy to attend the funeral.
An absence of tears indicates the deceased was not loved, and disgraces the family.
Clients typically pay around $450 for the service, involving around seven professional mourners.
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In some cultures around the world, people do not simply accept that someone has lived and died, but their life was truly a celebration. Funeral rituals from around the world show us that people honour the memory of their loved ones in different ways.