The Hindu 13-day death rituals are explained in Grihya Sutra and it’s written about in the Garuda Purana as well. While some believe in its significance wholeheartedly and think it’s actually therapeutic as well to the mourners, there are quite a few who think such traditions could go through some changes. A few shared their thoughts on the matter.
We had the whole 13 day death ritual for my mother and I adhered to all its strict rules. It turned out to be quite a bad experience for me. Since I wasn’t allowed to eat proper food with salt in it, over the days I started feeling very weak. I was also told that I couldn’t drink water until the daily puja was over. But our priest used to be late most of the time and the water deprivation actually led to me developing kidney stones. After the mourning period was over, I had to undergo an operation.
The rituals felt more like a burden at the time. It wasn’t helpful on an emotional level as well. Having lots of people, ones I didn’t even know, constantly come around really irked me. It was a time I wanted to be left alone. I think that would have helped me deal with my loss better. Experiencing all these troubles actually convinced my father to amend the traditions. He told me that he wanted me to simplify the process of his death rituals so that I or our relatives wouldn’t have to go through the unnecessary hassle. I too believe that risking your physical and emotional health isn’t worth it.
Rewati Raman Adhikari
I agree that while we have to protect our rituals, there are some that need to be slowly done away with. However, I don’t believe that the death ritual is one of them. I had to go through it for my parents as well and I thought of it as a sacred time. The 13 day mourning period was really the least I could have done for them. In fact, even though there wasn’t anything I could physically do for them after their death, I was glad that I could reflect on, as well as demonstrate, my loss in that manner.
During those mourning days, I also found myself contemplating on my relationship with my parents as well as my responsibilities from then on. I think that was really necessary. I gained a lot of strength from it all. So personally, I won’t encourage reducing the death rituals. While it’s true that it’s not necessary for us to hold on to all the customs that have been passed down the generations, it’s worth preserving those that serve as an inspiration and helps us with our progress. In my opinion, this particular ritual falls in the latter category.
Putting sentiments aside, the fact is the one who passes away is already dead and gone. Thus the rituals requiring the living relatives to go through all these trouble for such a long period of time never made sense to me. So personally, I’m for reducing the process of this custom. However, I seriously doubt that I will be able to convince my family to see my point of view. They are a little orthodox in their views so despite my opinions, I’m certain that I will have to abide by the old way as well.
Our society tends to dictate a lot of our actions and I don’t see my relatives and neighbors accepting the shorter version of the death ritual. So even though I personally prefer it, I doubt I will be given a chance to choose. I feel obliged to comply with the majority’s preference. At the end of the day, we have to live in the society and you can’t afford to alienate yourself in this manner. I guess it’s mainly those living abroad who come here on a tight schedule who can get away with this kind of thing.
Durga Prasad Bhattarai
If some-body wishes to shorten the death rituals to five days, I would recommend they just not carry out the ritual at all. It makes no sense. There is no point in doing it if you use a shortcut. I think that’s just a crazy idea. Sastra doesn’t lie. It wasn’t complied by any ordinary human, it was written by Bramha himself and I don’t it is wise at all to alter the directions just for your convenience.
If we don’t carry out the ritual as per the Sastra or we choose to not believe in it, we might as well take our father as a mere friend and our mother as a mere acquaintance. I doubt anybody who puts his faith in his religion would recommend such a thing. You can’t shorten the death ritual because each day has its significance. There are specific meanings behind each custom. I have had to perform these rituals myself and I don’t think it’s that much of a trouble. They signify a new beginning for you and also help cleanse your karma. I felt refreshed after sitting through the rituals. It helped me on a spiritual level and I also know that my deceased parents would have approved as well.
Each indi-vidual will have a different opinion on the matter and I think it is best if we give everybody the option to perform the ritual as they wish. I bet there are many, especially from the younger generation, who don’t see the motive behind all the elaborate and troublesome customs. I have even heard many people complain about how expensive performing these rituals have also become. Apparently, some priests demand that they offer specific amount of money after certain steps. They don’t like it that it’s no longer the families’ choice anymore. So I bet these people would want to shorten the rituals.
However, at the same time, I know people who wouldn’t under any circumstance consider this option. They cite these as important traditions and they themselves would probably not be satisfied with the shorter version of the ceremony. It’s about each individual’s own beliefs. For instance, even though a cousin of mine as a married woman wasn’t obliged to fast for the entire 13 days, she chose to do so because she said it felt like the right thing to do. So rather than just sticking to one method and forcing everybody to abide by it, I think it is best if we give everybody the freedom to choose.