Death Rites

Death Rites Explanation in Hinduism

Hinduism postulates that there are five sheaths for a Human Being. They are ,

Annamaya Kosa,made of the essence of Food,

Pranamaya Kosa, of Breath,

Manomaya Kosa, of Thoughts,

Vignanamaya Kosa , of Knowledge and

Anandamaya Kosa, of Bliss.

Each of these are nurtured by their respective attributes/source of their Being and together they constitute the Living Human being. When one dies what is visible to us the lifeless body, which had been nurtured by Food at the Annamaya Kosa Level,by the essence of Food.

After one’s death, it lingers till the twelfth day around the place of Death.Till the twelfth day Tharpana,called Kuzhi Tharpan,called so because it is performed and a small pit made preferably at the house where the death took place.

Ceremonies for death are conducted till the 12 Day, the thirteenth being Purification,not only for the satisfaction of the Annamaya Kosa, but for the other Kosas,,Prana, Vignana,Manas and Ananda, the last one reminding the Eternal Nature of the Self.

Mantras recited during these twelve days ensure this.After these ceremonies the Subtle body, Sukshama, enters the Pithru loka, sans the Physical body.The remnants of the actions performed remain with the Subtle body even after it takes rebirth.

Significance of the Thirteen Day Rituals.

Day One.

The dying man suffers as Death knocks. One is expected to avoid mundane thoughts and remember God’s name. So as Death nears, those near are expected to recite Vishnu Sahsranama , Bhagavad Gita near the person’s head. The son, keeping his parent’s head on his left lap ,recites the Karna Mantra, in the Left ear. Or the Panchakshara, Om Nama Sivaya  Karna Mantra. Sarva Dharman Parithyajyasya Klanir Bhavathi Bharata, Ahamthva Sarva Paapepyo Mokshayisyaami Ma sucha. Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18. Ganga water is given .

The dying is made to lie down head facing South. The body without Life is called Sava while the state of Jiva(Soul) is Preta. The Yamadutas, the servants of the Lord of Death, Yama drags the life out.

 As soon as the life is out, a small oil lamp lit with Gingelly oil is left near the body’s head.

The body is to be laid on the Dharpa grass. The body is bathed, daughters, perform this and draped with a new Cloth after removing everything else from the body. The body is garlanded and Rice is dropped in the mouth by the relatives.

 The ceremonies are performed as dictated int the relevant Veda Sutra of the deceased.

The son takes bath and performs the Homa and takes the body with Fire in a pot   to the cremation Ground. The son is expected to shave, in some custom hair of the head is also removed. At the cremation ground, the son performs Nagna Prachchadana Sraddham,after removing the clothes from the body.

 The dead feel ashamed and hence free offering of clothes for the next ten days are advised.

 It also feels thirsty and hungry. Food is also offered as Dhana during these ten days.

Now after the Homa is over, establishing Kunda, on  the river bank another at  Home is done where Tharpana is done daily.

Two Tharpanas, one Tilotaka, water with Til and another Vasodhaka, water wrung from Cloth is to be performed daily for the Two kundas daily till the tenth day. Tilodaka is offered thrice on day one and it increases one every day and on the tenth day it is twelve.

This is to quench the thirst of the departed.To satiate hunger Pinda ,rice balls are offered. The dead assumes the Vayavya Sarira. It is formless.

 The offering of Pinda helps in forming the solid body.

First day offering helps in the formation of the head, second the formation of the neck and shoulders,the third the Heart, the fourth the Back, the fifth the navel, sixth the waist, seventh generative organs, the eighth the Thighs and the ninth day the Legs.

The tendency to offer the Tharpana on the tenth day ,instead of every day is proscribed as it makes the dead thirsty, hungry, and prevents the formation of sarira, body.

Ekottavruddhi sradhham is to be performed daily till the tenth day.

Cooked rice with vegetables are to be offered to three people on the first day , to be increased by one every day till the tenth day,corresponding to the Tila Sraddha and on the twelfth day 12 are to be fed or are to be gifted the materials.

Nava sraddham is performed on day one, three, five, seven , nine  and eleven by  offering rice.

Second Day.

Second day is Sanchayana, the collection of Bones.

The bones are sprinkled with milk and the bones are picked up by hands wrapping them with Kandankathri herb,Solanum xanthocarpum.This prevents any wound that may arise accidentally while picking up the bones, as this herb has anti biotic properties. No shaving is to be done for the Kartha. Other Sraddhams as mentioned are to be continued as mentioned in the earlier article.

Day 3 to 10.

The Sraddhams mentioned are to be performed as mentioned earlier.

Day Ten, Dasasthu.On this day the Gnayatis, from the paternal side,who have not performed the Tharpana fromDay one are to perform 75 Tilodhaka and 75 Vasodhaka Thaarpana.

The Pinda Sarira of the departed is complete. As the body is restored  hunger and thirst increases manifold. So large quantities of food is offered by way of Prabhutabali.

The stones in the  two Kundas, used for Tharpana, are disposed off.On returning Home, the Kartha has to take a shave and bathe.

Shanti Homa and Ananda Homa are performed.

Day Eleven.

Punyahavachanam is performed for the Kartha to purify. Then Nava Sraddham and Vrushothsagam is performed. Vrushothsarga is performed with a Bull and Gosuktha is recited and the Bull is left to graze. The Bull represents Dharma and this kriya helps the departed obtain better worlds. The Ekothishta Sraddham is performed. Sixteen such Sraddhams are to be performed in a Year. The first one is called the Adya Masikam. Then follows Pinda Pradhanam, followed by bath and Punyahavachana. Balance 15 Sraddhas are to be performed as detailed below.

 Una Masika an any three days from the 27 Day.

 Traipakshtham on any five-day period day from the 40th Day.

 Unashanmasikam on 10 day period from the 170th day.

 Unabhdikamon any 15 day period from the 340th day.

Eleven Anumasikam on the Thithi of death every month for Eleven months. These are very important and are not to be missed.

Twelfth Day, Sapindikarana.

On the eleventh and Twelfth-day the Preta eats the food offered heartily. On the eleventh and twelfth day all the Pitrus are present. Vasu,Father; Rudram, Grand father nd great grand father,Adhitya.(Paternal). The earliest Pitru leaves the Pitru Loka and leaves for the Swarga and the presently decesed joins the Pitrus as the Vasu.

 That is the reason why the Argya (Ekothishta)of the presently deceased and the Agya of the Parvana Sradddha of the forefather’s are mixed. The pinda of the presently decesed is divided into three parts and mixed with the three pindas of the forefathers. This is Sapindikaramam.

The three Pindas thus obtained represent the latest Vasu, Rudra and Adhitya.


 The Yamadhtas drag the body on the thirteenth day .

 Tha Size of the Jiva is that of a Thumb.

 It is dragged to Samyamini, the city of Yama, Lord of Death.

 The distance is 86,00 Yojanas, a Yojana is about 13 Kilometers.

 Those who were virtuous cross this easily.

 Others suffer.

 Traveling is done continuously throughout day and night.

 Averagedistance traveled is 270 Yojanas a day.

 There are sixteen cities to be crossed along besides rivers , including Vaidharani.

 Post follows on Dhanas and descriptions of the cities.

 Sodakumbham is performed after Sapindikaranam.

 Sastras decalre that this has to be performed every day in the first year.

 If it is not possible, it has to be performed at least every month.

 Apart from Water , tender Coconut Water is also given on this day.

Day Thirteen. Gruha Yagya, Subha Sweekaara.

On this day Auspiciousness is invited by performing Punyahavachana,Udagasanthi and Navagraha Homa  are performed.  After the function is over the kartha is to visit a temple with family members.  The Gruha Yagya is to be performed after the conclusion of the First Abhdika as well.

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