The meaning of the rituals and traditions associated with death differ significantly between Christianity and Hinduism. While Christianity is the world’s largest religion, Hinduism is the third most popular religion. The two religions also share certain similarities with regard to life after death. This discussion compares and contrasts the two religions in terms of death rituals and traditions. It also outlines the significance of each ritual and the lessons learned after studying the cultural perspectives of different religions.
Earthly life, according to Christians, is a temporary gift that builds the foundation for the afterlife. After death, the soul will be judged and go either to heaven or hell (Uzell, 2018). Hindus, on the other hand, hold that after death, the soul returns back to the cycle of reincarnation (Uzell, 2018). The rituals associated with death also differ significantly. For Christians, it takes approximately a week for the funeral to be carried out in a church or at a chosen crematorium. The funeral comprises of a memorial service led by the church minister. During the funeral, readings, eulogy, tributes, and prayers are read to reflect the life of the deceased. Mourners, especially the family members and relatives, often toss dust onto the coffin before the body is buried after which the church minister recites a final prayer (Uzell, 2018). After death, a Hindu’s body is cremated within 24 hours and the ashes preserved (Uzell, 2018). The cremation ceremony is led by a priest and senior family members. A day after the funeral is held, the ashes are then splashed into a river to signify the end of the physical body (Uzell, 2018). A ceremony is then held after ten days to free the deceased person’s soul so that it can ascend into heaven.
Beliefs in life after death present with various similarities between Christians and Hindus. In both religions, there is the concept of life after death or rebirth. Christians believe that those who die while still righteous will be gifted with eternal life by God in heaven, while the wicked will suffer forever in hell as a punishment for leading an evil life (Neuberger, 2018). For Hindus, life after death is commonly referred to as reincarnation whereby every person will be reborn in another life in a physical form after natural death (Neuberger, 2018). The physical form in which the soul of the deceased person is reincarnated depends on his or her actions during the previous life (Neuberger, 2018). Hindus further believe that the cycle of reincarnation continues until the soul of the deceased attains perfection.
The death rituals carried out by the two cultural groups have distinct significance. For example, cremation represents the end of the physical body for the deceased among the Hindus. Splashing the ashes into a river is important as it signifies the final detachment with the deceased’s physical body the same way the flowing waters take the ashes away from the physical world (Neuberger, 2018). For Christians, the funeral service is important as far as praying for the soul of the deceased is concerned. The prayers held during the funeral are equally important in terms of offering support and comfort to the bereaved. Most Christian funeral rites and traditions focus on preparing the deceased to start eternal life in heaven, as well as giving those grieving the strength to cope with the loss (Neuberger, 2018). Thus, each of the rituals conducted after death by the two religious groups is significant and beneficial to the living.
Whether or not you agree with the rituals of a particular cultural group, you should respect their beliefs and rituals in funerals. Behaving in a manner that is similar with a different cultural group during burial is sign of respect for the deceased and those grieving rather than agreeing with their culture or religion. For example, if I were attending the burial of a Hindu, I would wear white regalia, which is common in Hindu culture. According to the Hindu, white is a sign of purity that symbolizes one’s respect for the deceased and the grieving. Being a Christian, I would behave differently by avoiding black clothes which are common in Christian burials. I would also show respect to each of the rituals carried out despite being different from those of my religion. In addition, I would show respect to the cremation process in the same manner I show respect to every ritual carried out during a Christian burial.
Research has changed my perspective towards culture and cultural differences in general. It has also altered my general attitude towards death and the grieving process. Through research, I have acknowledged that each cultural group has its own set of beliefs and different meanings of life and death. I have also learned that different religions have different beliefs about life after death, which must be respected. After studying the similarities and differences in burial rituals between Hindus and Christians, for example, I have learned that death is more bearable for cultural groups that believe in life after death. Another significant lesson that I have learned after researching this topic is that the grieving process is painful for those left behind, and the feeling can be overwhelming. Coping with loss can be quite challenging, and hence, it is important to offer as much support as possible to the family members left behind (Rosenblatt, 2019). Being present and showing respect for the deceased during the funeral, giving financial support, and praying for the family of the deceased are some of the ways to grieve the deceased.
Christianity and Hinduism religions share various similarities and differences. Whereas both religions have a set of different rituals, beliefs, and traditions, they are all significant and beneficial to the two cultural groups. Studying this topic not only changed my cultural perspective, but also helped me to learn great lessons about funerals and the grieving process.
Neuberger, J. (2018). Caring for dying people of different faiths. CRC Press.
Rosenblatt, P. C. (2019). Diversity in human grieving: Historical and cross-cultural perspectives. In Exploring Grief (pp. 37-51). Routledge.
Uzell, J. (2018). Death/funeral rituals in world religions. Retrieved from https://religionmediacentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Death-Funeral-Rituals-in-World.pdf