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Re: why cremation?
: I was wondering about the significance of cremation after death.. is this a
: religious or cultural practice? if religious, what is the motivation behind the
: practice? and, does this somehow relate to the notion of reincarnation.
: F. Farooq
The issue of cremation is an interesting one. I will try to talk
on both, the Saami (Semitic) and Indian perspectives. From whatever
little I understand of Semitic faiths, there is this notion of
'rising from the dead'. YOu find this notion in the Old Testament
and also in Egyptian pre-biblical era. How can you come back to
life, if your body is not buried. How can the body come to the
second life. That, in my opinion, is the driving force behind
the burial of Christian and Islamic bodies.
I am aware that there are several sects among Christians (and Jews
also, probably) that still prescribe to burning, rather than burying.
I do not have an explanation of that. However, I must say, that the
practice of burial, in Semitic traditions, does have a strong
According to Indian traditions (most of them, Sikh, Vedic, Jain,
Bauddha) the body after death serves no useful purpose. The Gitaa
says: "Just as you change your clothes, the AtmA changes bodies."
So, there is a very clear and sharp distinction between Self and
the body. So, there is no real insistence on any ONE mode of
post-mortem rites. So, you can bury it, burn it, or even leave
it in water. There is a hierarchy though in some traditions:
I am aware of one of them. Burning > Burial > Leaving it in water.
So, depending upon your financial constraints, you could pick
either of those. However, most of the Indians, DO prefer burning
over any other mode. In a sense, the Parsee practice of
leaving the body alone (which is later consumed by animals) might
be based on the same axioms, as those of Indian traditions. However,
my limited knowledge about Zorastrianism forbids me to venture
far in that direction.
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