Indian death rituals : the enactment of ambivalence
This work provides a survey of Indian funeral rites, concentrating on ceremonies performed by rural mainland Hindus, who have been divided into the broad social categories of brahmins, caste Hindus and outcastes/tribes. The primary intention is to identify a core of ritual, which can be used as a baseline against which particular funeral performances can be checked. This work also examines the variation of brahminical ritual over time through a survey of ethnographic material taken from Gazetteers and Government Ethnographic Surveys; the Purāṇas, represented by a version of the Garuḍa Purāṇa and a work known as the Garuḍa Purāṇa Sāroddāra; and Caland's summary of Vedic ritual in Die altindischen Todten- und Bestattungsgebräuche. In each of these three sections the funeral rituals have been divided into six stages and these stages have been further divided into sub-sections containing specific rituals or groups of rituals. Sections on untimely death and the role of the widow in her husband's funeral are also included. Particular emphasis is placed throughout the historical survey on the recurrent theme of ambivalence towards death as reflected both in ritual and its interpretation: the relative is loved and honoured but the corpse is frightening and quickly becomes disgusting. The survey examines the relationship between the primary emotional response to death and secondary ideological constructs, and it reveals that while ritual reflects the emotional response to death it does not always reflect secondary ideology. In addition this work includes a summary, in table form, of the variation of funeral ritual according to geographical area for all three social groups; again taken from the ethnographic material of the Gazetteers and Government Surveys.