Like other types of religious Asian funerals, there are no hard and fast rules about what a service will be like. Even though there are certain religious observances that Hindus tend to follow, this isn't always the case especially when the service will be held in a Western country where other influences might count. That said, according to 2021 census data, less than 2.7 percent of the Australian population is Hindu. This means that — for many Australians, at least — they won't have attended a Hindu service before even if they've been to other Asian funerals in the past. What should you expect so that you are prepared?
Nearly every type of Asian funeral will involve the wider community, not just the immediate family members. This means the local temple, if there is one, will probably feature as a part of the service. In places where Hindu temples are few and far between, a funeral home with a crematorium will often be hired. This still means that Hindus in the area and, sometimes, those residing out of the state may attend along with friends, former colleagues and so on.
Hindu Funeral Rites
Hindus are cremated instead of buried. Since Hindus believe in reincarnation, the body is merely a vessel for the soul and should be burned. Typically, the remains will be held on to by the family who may scatter them locally or, in many cases, take them to India sometime after the service to be spread into the River Ganges. Usually, Hindus are cleaned before the cremation and essential oils are placed on the head of the deceased. White sheets can be used to wrap the body in. However, smart attire and a coffin are more commonplace in Australia even among more traditional Asian funerals.
What Happens During the Service?
If the casket is an open one, mourners are invited to view the deceased in a respectful manner. Family members or a priest will run the service, known as a mukhagni. In most cases, the funeral service will not be that long. Expect it to take about half an hour before the body of the deceased is conveyed to the crematorium's furnace.
Tips on Hindu Funeral Etiquette
Don't wear black to a Hindu funeral in Australia unless you've been specifically told otherwise. White attire is much more common at this type of Asian funeral. Equally, flowers are not expected at most Hindu funerals. Clothing should be appropriately modest but there will be no need for women who attend to wear a head covering, for example, to be respectful.
For more information on Asian funerals, contact a professional near you.