Telugu Brahmin rituals after death

Exploring Telugu Brahmin Rituals After Death

Last updated on April 16th, 2024

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Death is an inescapable piece of human existence. Telugu Brahmin rituals after death are an essential part of Hindu bereavement customs in Andhra Pradesh.

Various societies and religions have shifted convictions and customs regarding passing. In Hinduism, especially among Telugu Brahmins, specific rituals are followed after someone passes away. 

These ceremonies aim to assist the spirit of the departed with achieving moksha, or freedom from the pattern of resurrection. In this article, I will investigate some significant Telugu Brahmin rituals after death and functions performed. These ceremonies are an essential piece of Hindu deprivation customs in Andhra Pradesh.

The funeral and cremation services for the Telugu Brahmins people group commonly include ceremonial practices like washing and dressing the departed’s body, saving the body at home for some time, a burial service parade to convey the body to the incineration site, and different rituals led at the incineration ground.

Individuals from the Non-Brahmin community in Andhra Pradesh additionally follow particular demise-related traditions. However, a few practices might vary when contrasted with the Brahmin customs.

Evolution of Telugu Brahmin Death Rituals and Traditions

Evolution of Telugu Brahmin rituals after death and traditions have undergone changes over the years due to evolving social and cultural practices:

  • Keeping the body at home for several days was common historically, but today, the funeral is typically held at the earliest for practical reasons. 
  •  The funeral procession on foot to the cremation ground has reduced, with more people opting for transporting the body directly in a vehicle. 
  • Wooden funeral pyres are now less common in urban areas due to the availability of crematoriums. Electric or CNG cremations are replacing traditional burning methods.
  •  Joint families were typical in the past with 3 generation households. Now nuclear families are more prevalent so responsibilities and rituals are shouldered by the immediate family. 
  • Customs were generally completed by family heads yet today even women take part effectively in burial service rituals and functions.
  • Donations to brahmins during shradh are presently frequently supplanted by magnanimous commitments to rumoured trusts and establishments.
  • With migration, NRI families opt for transporting ashes to India or sometimes even performing last rites abroad per local laws.

While the philosophical beliefs and significance attached to rituals remains unchanged, practical adaptations show how traditions naturally evolve with changing social dynamics to remain relevant for current generations in their essence and spirit. The transformation has been gradual ensuring important cultural aspects are preserved.

Ritual bathing and dressing of the deceased

Once a person has passed away, the body is given a ritual bath using water mixed with Tulsi leaves. This is believed to cleanse the soul from any sins committed during a lifetime. The body is then dressed in fresh clothes, typically a dhoti for males and a saree for females.

Unmarried girls are dressed in a white saree. For married women, the wedding saree or a red/pink saree is used. The toes of the deceased are then tied with a sacred thread. Offering arghya or water to the sun is done as the last rites.

Keeping the body at home

In earlier times, the deceased body used to be kept at home for three days to allow people to pay their last respects. However, nowadays, most families prefer to conduct the funeral as soon as possible, mostly for practical reasons. 

The body is laid in the drawing room or halls with lit lamps. A Pinda or ball made of rice is kept under the head as an offering. During these few days, prayers are chanted and rituals are performed by relatives.

Funeral procession to the cremation ground

Upon the arrival of the memorial service, the body is shipped in a parade from the home to the incineration site. Usually, the male family members and relatives escort the procession by carrying the deceased’s body on a wooden cot. Sometimes, senior family members may also join the procession in the vehicle.

Elderly family members may also sit in the procession vehicle. Ritual songs known as keertanas praising the deity of death, Yamraj are chanted along the way by mourners.

Rituals at the cremation ground

At the cremation site, the wooden logs for burning are kept in pyramidal stacks at the spot where the body will be placed. As per tradition, the chief mourner, usually the son, walks around the funeral pyre three times in an anti-clockwise direction. 

The son then lights the pyre as others chant vedic hymns. The pyre is observed until the embers cool down. Then the ashes and bones are collected in an uruli (copper/bronze container).

Post-cremation rites

On the third day after the cremation, rituals known as ekoddista sraaddha are performed. Prayers are offered to the deceased soul, and pinda offerings of cooked white sesame seeds, rice and black sesame seeds are given to crows as per Hindu beliefs. This marks the end of the 13-day mourning period during which close family members don’t participate in any celebrations or functions.

Death anniversary rituals

The first anniversary of the death, known as pitru paksha or Shraadh, is considered very important. On this day, prayers are offered to signify the soul’s journey to the afterlife. Donations are made to charity, and Brahmins are fed. Some families also install the ashes in a temple or in the Ganges.

Ensuing commemorations are additionally set apart through supplications and customs yet with less intricate functions than the main commemoration.

How have the roles of women in Telugu Brahmin rituals after death changed over the years?

The roles of women in Telugu Brahmin rituals after death  have undergone some significant changes over the years:

  • Historically, women did not participate actively in funeral processions or last rites. This was considered inauspicious. Nowadays, women fully participate in all death rituals.
  • Preparing the body, doing ritual bath and dressing was mainly done by female relatives in the past. Now, both male and female relatives perform this task.
  • Mourning rituals like wearing white clothes for a specified period were strictly followed by women earlier. Today, the mourning practices are not as stringent.
  • Ritual cooking and offerings during death ceremonies used to be done exclusively by women. Now, men also assist or take responsibility for these tasks. 
  • Last rites like lighting the funeral pyre are roles reserved for men, usually the eldest son. Now, even women from the family may perform this ritual.
  • Death anniversary rituals were shouldered mainly by men. Women would offer prayers from home. Now women actively participate in the rituals along with men.
  • Elderly women played an important advisory role in performing rituals as per traditions. With fewer joint families, this guiding presence of women elders is less prevalent now.

So, in the rundown, there has been a prominent shift from prohibitive orientation jobs to more dynamic and equivalent support of ladies in memorial service functions and rituals, which is in contrast to the past. Social and educational changes have empowered women to take up roles earlier considered inappropriate for them.

To conclude, we investigated some vital demise and post-passing functions among Telugu Brahmin rituals after death. The intricate ceremonies are pointed toward assisting the departed with achieving moksha and carrying comfort to the deprived family. 

While practices may evolve over time, the formal ceremonies keep on being a basic piece of Hindu bereavement customs in Andhra Pradesh. The belief in an afterlife and in sons playing a pivotal role in salvation of the ancestors remains firmly entrenched.

Kaashimukthi is a leading company that helps Telugu families with funeral arrangements and ensuring the performance of last rites according to traditional customs and beliefs.

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