The Last Journey

Story of The Soul From a Body to Salvation - Varanasi

T The Hindu mythology and religious thoughts have been a constant source of intrigue for philosophers. There are many valid interpretations of the Vedas written by sages over the centuries and the topic of death is described in quite a detail. The elaborate rituals associated with the cremation of the body are collectively termed as Antyesti literally meaning the "last sacrifice". And also, as per hindu methodology , the soul is immortal and body is mortal which is made by five elements: air, water, fire, earth and space and the last rite of passage returns the body to the five elements of the universe.

As Hindus believe in reincarnation, many of the death rites are associated with bringing a proper closure for the soul, allowing it to continue its journey uninterrupted in the afterlife. For instance, a part of the ritual involves hitting the head of the corpse so that the soul leaves the body without carrying any of the past memories in its next physical manifestation. Though there are slight variations according to sect, region, caste, and family tradition, the basic rituals are fairly common among all Hindus. The eldest son usually carries out most of the important rites; however, entire family, including the children take part in these rites.

A major consideration in these rituals is the selection of the cremation ground. While every Indian city has a dedicated river bank (ghat) just for the purpose of cremations, Hindus highly revere the Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi. Hindus believe that people cremated here receive moksha - which means being released from the cycle of rebirth. This obviously makes the ghat one of the busiest cremation ghats in India.

While lighting the pyre brings an end to the physical form, the family practices the mourning for 13 days. Post-cremation, Pindadan is another major ritual in which ashes of the deceased are disbursed in the nearby river or preferably in the Ganges. On the 13th day, the rituals are formally put to an end, after which the mourners can continue with their normal lives.

While all these rituals might not be properly understood by the masses, every single ritual has a meaning and significance. Moreover, most of the rituals are very practical in a sense that they provide mourners enough time to settle down and accept new realities. The 13 day period provides them an opportunity to reflect on their association with the deceased and plan better for the coming days.

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