Cremation is a ritual designed to do much more than dispose of the body; it is intended to release the soul from its earthly existence. Hindus believe that cremation is most spiritually beneficial to the departed soul. This is based on the belief that the “astral body” will linger as long as the physical body remains visible. If the body is not cremated, the soul remains nearby for days or months.
The standard cremation ceremony begins with the ritual cleansing, dressing and adorning of the body. The body is then carried to the cremation ground as prayers are chanted. Most rites are fulfilled by the family, all of whom participate, including the children, who need not be shielded from the death. The dead is an offering to Agni, the fire god. After the cremation, there is a series of beautiful, traditional rites to honor the deceased and to send her or him off with our best wishes.
The ashes are thrown into a river or the ocean and the mourners walk away without looking back. The death ritual does not end with the elimination of the body. There is still the safety of the soul to look after. To ensure the passage during its voyage to the Otherworld, an eleven-day ritual called shraddha is performed.
Hindu funeral rites intend to offer a perspective on death as a journey to look forward to, so we need not dread our last days on this planet. According to the scriptures, a Hindu shall love death as he loves this life.