Cremations in Hinduism

Transcription in English of the Norwegian speaker text

 In Hinduism, water is sacred and life-giving – or a source of new life. The Bagmati River in Kathmandu is the most sacred river in Nepal.

At the Pashupatinath temple, each year 5-6000 humans are cremated at the cremation platforms along the river. Cremation is the most common form of burial within Hinduism, in which it is said that everyone who adheres to the orthodox beliefs will be born again 8.4 million times. 

The oldest son walks three times around the cremation pyre with the fire. He walks clock-wise – the cycle of the sun and of life. The three turns symbolize the unity in Hindusism, consisting of  Brahma, the creator of cosmos,  Vishnu, who sustains and Shiva, who destroys, but who also recreates cosmos and the world.    

The cremation begins when the son of the dead person lying on the pyre starts the fire in the mouth of the dead. The final spirit of life has now left the dead, and it is here that the first spirit of life will begin in the next life. A cremation is a cosmic event where the elements composing the body return to their divine beginning where new life is created. 

Evil spirits try to influence the dead person’s soul. Thus, relatives guard and watch over the dead. Sacred red powder and insence helps guard the dead while the cremation pyre is readied. 

In Hinduism, everything in the world consists of five elements. The cremation pyre consists of five layers, each of them symbolising one of the elements. Ritual cleansing is central in all parts of the cremation.   

The fire has a central role in cremations. The fire liberates the soul from the body. To increase the cremation’s temperature, wet hay is laid on top. 

The sons go through a process of cleansing, since death is dangerous. Even so, death is a completely natural part of everyday life. Cremation sites are also a part of the village where poor people live. 

The river serves both the living and the dead. In Hinduism, rivers are both sacred and life-giving. Rivers are seen as female gods. 

A cremation is concluded by the ashes and bones being offered to the sacred river. At times, not every part of the dead is cremated. The sons take a small part of the remains and bury it in the river bed. 

Death is a source of new life. 

Last modified: 2022-01-28