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What to Expect at a Hindu or Sikh Funeral Service

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hindu_sikh_funeralOne of the joys of our richly diverse Cleveland community is sharing in the cultural practices of others, especially when they’re different from your own.

Here in Northeast Ohio, we’re proud to serve a wide range of cultural communities as they honor and celebrate their loved ones after a loss.

When it comes to attending a funeral service that is outside of your own religion or cultural background, however, you may have questions about the customs and practices. Let’s discuss how those of the Hindu and Sikh religions celebrate the lives of the departed.

What Is the Difference Between Hinduism and Sikhism?

Hinduism and Sikhism are two different religions that began in the country of India.  

Each of these religions are unique and multifaceted, with many fascinating traits. Like any religion or culture, their meanings can’t be reduced to a single paragraph.

  • Both religions believe that a human is comprised of both a physical body and an individual soul, as well as believing in the idea of karma.
  • Hindus recognize many gods and pray to images and statues.
  • Sikhs, on the other hand, believe in only one god who is without form—and therefore cannot be depicted in statues or images.

What to Expect at a Hindu Funeral

Hindu practices vary widely depending on family and geographical traditions. A Hindu funeral usually begins with a ceremony in the family’s home. When the deceased is moved to a funeral home, there is typically a ritual washing and dressing of the deceased by family members or members of the temple. The deceased is then placed in a ceremonial casket for services.

This practice most closely resembles a Western wake, and it’s customary to offer condolences, view the body and sit quietly during the ceremony if you’re not participating. A Hindu priest leads prayers and chants.

Following prayers, the family will often share memories through speeches or eulogies. Everyone is then invited to pass by the casket and cover the deceased with flower petals.

Hindus prefer cremation. Following services at a funeral home, the deceased is then taken to an on-site crematory. At the crematorium, Hindus may have another ceremony called a mukhagni, which is usually just for family but may include guests.

The cremated remains are typically scattered in water as soon as possible after the cremation.

There is sometimes a third ceremony around ten days after death, called a shraddha, which usually requires an invitation from the family to attend. It is customary to wear white to Hindu funerals as a show of respect, and dress modestly with little jewelry. Head coverings are not required.

What to Expect at a Sikh Funeral

Like Hinduism, Sikh funeral practices may vary widely depending on a family’s preferences. Sikhs also prefer cremation and don’t traditionally memorialize a loved one with a monument, though they may scatter cremated remains if possible.

A religious ceremony at the funeral home will occur before a cremation, which includes prayer and song. This may be followed by speeches from family and friends. From there, the body will be moved to an on-site crematory where more prayers are delivered for family and friends.

After a Sikh funeral, the family and loved ones of the deceased gather to read the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, a practice which is called the Akhand Paatth. This ceremony can take anywhere from three to 10 days.

Sikhs’ mourning color is white, though other neutral colors like black or navy are acceptable. 

The following are important factors to consider when attending a Sikh funeral:

  • As is the case with most Indian households, it is customary to remove your shoes prior to entering. At Busch Funeral and Crematory Services, we will have a designated place for shoes.
  • While flowers are appreciated, remember it is not customary for an Indian family to take home anything that was sent to the deceased at the funeral home.
  • Men and women may be asked to cover their heads while attending a Sikh funeral. If the family prefers this, coverings will be provided at our funeral home.

Let Us Help You Plan a Culturally Significant Funeral Service

Busch Funeral and Crematory Services proudly and graciously serves many diverse religious and cultural communities, including Hindu and Sikh tradition. Please contact us today to create a personal funeral service as unique as the life lived.

Contact us for funeral planning.

Robert Solich
Robert Solich
Thirty years of experience helping people on the hardest day of their lives, and one of Busch's longest-standing staff members. Bob provides valuable guidance to families with his expertise and compassion. He serves on two non-profit boards in the greater Cleveland area, promoting healthcare and the arts. Proudly serving Busch families since 1983.

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