Dec 052015
 

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Hinduism: Belief about death

Hindus believe death is part of the continuing cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. The soul of the dead transfers to another body after death.

Funeral practices

Hindus generally cremate their dead. In preparation for cremation, the body is bathed, laid in a coffin, adorned with sandalwood paste and garlands, and wrapped in white cloth. In the cremation ceremony, the body is carried three times counterclockwise around the pyre, then placed upon it. The chief mourner hits the cremation switch.

Mourning rituals

The days of mourning are considered a time of ritual impurity. Mourners cover all religious pictures in the house and do not attend festivals or visit swamis or take part in marriage ceremonies. Mourning period length varies, though Hindu scriptures caution against excessive mourning.

Symbols:

imagesOm or Aum

As the cross is to Christians, the Om is to Hindus. It is made up of three Sanskrit letters, aa, au and ma which, when combined, make the sound Aum or Om. The most important symbol in Hinduism, it occurs in every prayer and invocation to most deities begins with it. As the symbol of piety, Om is often found at the head of letters, pendants, enshrined in every Hindu temple  and family shrines.

This symbol is actually a sacred syllable representing the Brahman or the Absolute – the source of all existence. Brahman, in itself, is incomprehensible so a symbol becomes mandatory to help us realize the Unknowable.

The syllable Om occurs even in English words having a similar meaning, for instance, ‘omniscience’, ‘omnipotent’, ‘omnipresent’. Thus Om is also used to signify divinity and authority. Its similarity with the Latin ‘M’ as also to the Greek letter ‘Omega’ is discernable. Even the word ‘Amen’ used by Christians to conclude a prayer seems to be akin to Om.

Swastika

Swastika

Swastika

Second in importance only to the Om, the Swastika, a symbol which look like the Nazi emblem, holds a great religious significance for the Hindus.

Swastika is not a syllable or a letter, but a pictorial character in the shape of a cross with branches bent at right angles and facing in a clockwise direction. A must for all religious celebrations and festivals,Swastika symbolizes the eternal nature of the Brahman, for it points in all directions, thus representing the omnipresence of the Absolute.

The term ‘Swastika’ is believed to be a fusion of the two Sanskrit words ‘Su’ (good) and ‘Asati’ (to exist), which when combined means ‘May Good Prevail’. Historians say Swastika could have represented a real structure and that in ancient times forts were built for defense reasons in a shape closely resembling the Swastika. For its protective power this shape began to be sanctified.

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