In death rituals from around the world, sometimes the body is burned or cremated, while other times, it becomes a way to allow others to thrive. In this article, you will learn about a few odd death rituals hailing from India and a Hindu sect called the Aghoris.
In India, there is a traditional Hindu ritual called suttee (self-immolation), which involves the voluntary act of a grieving widow to lie beside the body of her deceased husband while he is burning on the funeral pyre. As a result, she is burned alive while lying next to the corpse. The practice of suttee dates back centuries in India before the occupying British in 1829 made the practice illegal and forbidden. However, over the years, it has been known that the practice still takes place. Attempts to further ban the tradition has taken place in 1956 and 1981.
Not all widows were strong enough to take the burning flames and would try to run away from the pain. This placed them in a highly dishonorable position where bystanders would use bamboo canes to jab the widow back to the pyre. In some cases, she was tied down to keep her in the fire. One incident dating back to the 18th century spoke of a widow that made it to a nearby river to put out the flames. However, onlookers broke her legs and arms so that she would be unable to flee once again.
Women would participate in this ritual to escape the fate of being a widow. In India, widows were looked down upon. They were seen as impure ”“ a member of the community to be shunned. While some women chose to burn on the pyre, others truly believed that they would reunite with their husband after death. The most beloved of the husband’s possession were also burnt so that they could be used in the afterlife.
Members of a Hindu sect called the Aghoris worship Shiva, who they believe to be the supreme god and creator of everything. They believe that since everything was a product of Shiva, nothing is bad in the world. In their minds, this belief gives them the green light to have sex, drink alcohol, take drugs, and eat meat. They consider nothing taboo. In a different twist, the ancient practices of these Hindus also follow cannibalism and their temples function as cremation grounds. An Anghori can support themselves while living on the cremation grounds. The receive firewood from the funeral pyre and their clothing is supplied by the dead. The river provides food. When an individual is cremated, an Anghori will use the ashes as a coating for their body and meditate on the dead. Dead bodies that float past on the river are collected and meditated upon. The Anghori removes the limbs and eats the flesh in a raw state.