The first truth about life is death. And death is the end of this realm of time. In Nepali, the exact word of translation is “Antya”. And, Antya Karma is the Sanskar that is done as we are close towards the end of our life. It’s the time of the funeral that takes us from here to the other side.
What is Antya Karma?
Antya Karma is the preparation for the journey that is going to start from the exact time of our death. Hindu context of the funeral process takes a person’s spirit after death through a series of journeys that takes them from the mortal world, towards the unknown ones where gods reside.
Death is as sure for that which is born, as birth is for that which is dead. Therefore, grieve not for what is inevitable.
–Krishna From Bhagavad Gita
Antya Karma is the last Sanskar that we fulfill during our life. It also determines the state of our journey that we are going to have after our death. So, it is held with much importance as our spirit’s condition depends on the way this karma is completed.
At the exact time of death, our Antya Karma starts. But, It’s a long way to the funeral, from where we leave this place behind and set on our way.
Before Antya Karma Sanskar
As a person gets closer to the time of death, the person is given some Madhupark to drink. It is believed that it is going to keep the journey that they are about to take smooth and troubleless.
Madhupark is a mixture of Curd, Ghee, and Honey that is prepared in a brass vessel. It is the best-suited potion drink that can be fed to the person with a spoon or any possible way.
Some alternative liquids solutions for the process can be, Water from Shaligram, Panchamrit used to bathe the gods or Panchagavya liquid. These are all considered of high power and purity.
Dan for Antya Sanskar
(अन्त्य संस्कारका लागि दान )
Dan is the donation that you have to complete and give away to Bhramin Priests. There are many of it that the dying person should attend the process as their family organizes it.
Baitarani Dhennu Dan, Biraja Dhenu Dan, Dus Dan, Pancha Dhenu Dan, and Antya Dan are some dan processes that need to be done under this.
Baitarani and Biraja Dhenu Dan
(वैतरणी र विरजाधेनुदान)
Baitarani and Biraja are the two rivers that lie between this realm and the Biakuntha heaven that the person needs to travel to. These rivers are believed to be a hard milestone to achieve during this process.
So, the Gaudan in the name of these rivers is said to make hardship much easier while crossing the river.
The next Dan to achieve is Dus Dan which is simply giving 10 different elements in the name of the dying person.
The different elements that need to be arranged:
- Cow (गाई)
- Land (जग्गा)
- Sesame Seeds (तिलको दाना)
- Gold (सुन)
- Ghee (घी)
- Clothes (लुगा)
- Wheat (गहुँ)
- Jaggery (गुड़)
- Silver (चाँदी)
- Salt (नुन)
Pancha Dhenu Dan
Cow donation with Gaudan is believed to be the easiest way to pass through difficulties after death. It also cleanses all the bad karma that we might have done in our life. So, during this time donation of 5 cows as stated in the Hindu Religion transcripts opens up the way towards heaven.
The 5 Cows names:
- Papapanoda (पपपनोड़ा)
- Rhinapanoda (ऋहिनपनोद)
- Prayaschit (प्रायास्चित)
- Utkranti (उत्क्रन्ति)
- Mokshyadhenu (मोक्ष्यधेनु)
As the word “Antya” suggests, Antya Dan is the final set of donations that you are going to give before your death.
During the last few moments before death, a brass vessel filled with Sesame Seeds and an affordable amount of gold is prepared. On it, Sankalpa is done for dan in the name of the dying person.
All these dan and rituals are a way of ensuring a safe and smooth ride of the afterlife for the dying person. The Hindu religious text suggests that having this set of ritual steps ensures a place in Baikuntha for the dying spirit. But in the case of unavailability and shortage, or just that it cannot happen at all, then remembering the name of gods with Kritan and Bhajan is also believed to be a way of praying for ease and swift journey of afterlife.
Some way of praying is associated with the reading of Mantras of VishnuSahasranam or other Hindu transcripts.
Near the Time of Death
In Hindu belief and practices, dying near the Tulsi moth eases the way for the spirit to travel to the other world. It is considered the purest essence as Lord Vishnu lies within the Tulsi Plant.
So, the dying person is taken to the Tulsi Moth (Tulsi Moth) in front of the house.
There at Tulsi Moth, all the Pure elements of Hindu beliefs are set to action. The place is painted with Gobar and rinsed with holy water. The bedding is prepared and some Sesame seeds along with Kus are placed under it, upon which the person is laid as they rest at ease.
They breathe the last breath in the satisfaction that they are going to the gods home. That has been seen as a practice that has kept the generation through peace knowing that their elders went to heaven after their death.
After the Last Breath
Once the person leaves the body and lifts away as the spirit, the body that they left behind is sprinkled with Tulsi water and their forehead is painted with Tilak and Chandan.
The body is covered with a new and pure cloth. The cloth color is chosen according to the age of the person. An old aged person with white, Adult with red, Young man or Female with Colorful and Bright, Widow with White, Black or Blue. The yellow cloth is suitable for everyone if the ones specified are not available.
The Shradhanjali or condolences that the family, relatives, and friends give to the dead person takes place after that. The face of the person should not be covered until the Shrandhanjali is complete.
If the body needs to be carried off to the place for the funeral, then bedding of Raw Bamboo or Dumri wood should be prepared to carry the body. After the Shradhanjali, the body is covered completely from head to toe and tied to the wood bedding so carrying can be done easily.
Antya Sanskar Process for Funeral
The process of Antya Sankskar takes a new phase after the death of the person. First, it was for the praying module of a safe and smooth path to heaven. Now, after the person’s death, it directs towards implementing actions, that are said to be a stepping pavement for the spirit “Pitri” towards the heavens.
This process starts right at the place of death, before the body “Shab” and the ritual is taken forward.
Pinda for Antya Karma
(अन्त्यकर्मका लागि पिण्ड)
Pinda is an offering to the Pitri, meaning the deceased who are now in the next realm. Hindu religion practices this belief that the ancestors are expecting these from their child or family, and this offering gets to them. This is a yearly ritual that is called Shradhha.
During Antya Karma, the gods associated in different forms, are offered with Pindas, which is a mass ball of Flour that is mixed with Amrita elements.
Starting from Antya Karma and during the Shab Yatra, Pinda needs to be given a total of 6 different times at different places for different gods.
Pinda at the Place of Death
(मृत्यु स्थान मा पिण्ड)
The place of death is cleansed with Gobar or washed clean. Kus is kept as the seating for Pinda and Til is sprinkled around the place.
The son now takes the Pinda on his right hand and positions Apashvaya Janai, meaning his Janai “Sacred Thread” rests on his right shoulder for the process. Normally, It is in Shavya position, as it rests on his left shoulder.
A Sankalpa is read while the Pinda is held in his hand. After which it is placed on the Kus placed before. Water is poured on top of the Pinda with the Mantra chant.
Back to Shavya Janai’s position, he prays to the Land God.
The Pinda offered in this place is called Shab and offered to the God of land.
Pinda at the Doorway
(ढोका मा पिण्ड )
In the doorway path, the same cleansing process follows with Gobar, placement of Kus Seating and Til offering.
Apashavya with the Janai, Pinda should be held as a Sankalpa is read, after which it is placed on the Kus. Water is poured with a Mantra chant.
And getting Shavya, praying should be done to the Vastu God.
The Pinda offered in this place is called Pantha and offered to the God of Vastu.
These two Pindas are offered before the body is moved from the initial place. After the body has been taken outside, they are taken to the river and offered into the water.
Pinda during the Mid-journey of Shab Yatra
(शव यात्रा आधि बाटोको लागि पिण्ड)
During the mid-journey, the body should be placed down in a pure place with Gobar painted and Washed floor.
A Pinda should be prepared and placed in the same manner as before with Gobar plated place with Kus Seating sprayed with Til.
Taking the Pinda in hand with Janai in Apasavya manner, the Pinda should be placed on the Kus following a Sankalpa.
Water should be poured with the Mantra Chant. Then, In Savya manner, the person should pray.
The Pinda offered here is called Khechar and offered for the Ghosts. It should be taken to the river and let flow down with the river.
Then again, the body is carried and the journey to the Cremating site” Ghat” continues with the same pattern of the procession.
Pinda at the Ghat (Cremation Site)
(घाट मा पिण्ड)
The Pinda at the Ghat should be given after the body is rested at a pure spot. Again, it is given in the same process of preparing the spot with Gobar painted and washed spot, placed with Kus seating, and sprayed with Til.
Apasavya Janai placement-Pinda held in hand- Sankalpa-Pinda placed on the Kus-Poured with Water with Mantra Chant-Savya Janai Placement-Praying.
This Pinda at the Ghat is called BhutSangyak and is offered to the 10 directions.
Pinda at Chita
(चित्ता मा पिण्ड)
Chita is the bedding crafted from the placement of the wood at the site of cremation. A Pinda is given after this process is completed.
In the same previous manner, Apasavya Janai placement-Pinda held in the hand- Sankalpa- Placed on the hand of the deceased the Pinda offering is completed.
This Pinda is called Sadhak and is offered to the Pitri.
Pinda after the Cremation
The spot of Cremation, after cleaned and rinsed should be prepared with pure Gobar. After the main Karta Bathes, he needs to prepare a Pinda and in the same manner as previous Pindas he should place the pinda on top of the Kus seat at that spot.
This time, total 6 Pindas should be offered representing all the previous Pindas.
The Pinda presented here is called Pret and It is offered in the name of the deceased person.
Shab Yatra is a journey of the deceased person’s body carried by the sons or family on the four sides, followed by a crowd of family, friends relatives, and loved ones to grieve the death of the person and rejoice the life that the person had. The mourners of this journey to the Cremating site for Daha Sanskar are called Malami.
There are some rules as per Hindu traditions that are followed during the process:
- The sons, family, and followers who are going to carry the body on the four sides need to bathe. They are downed in new pure clothes of white to carry the body. They are taken to be the carriers of god.
- Sankha Melody with Hindu Sanskrit Mantras, “Ram Nam, Satya Ho!” and others should be chanted by the Mourners as they spray Lawa, flowers during the Yatra.
- The procession starts with the Man blowing the Sankha in the lead, followed by the one who sprays water. Then the one who sprays Lawa and flowers, and behind him, the one who carries fire, who is followed by the body carriers. Behind this procession, the immediate family follows the body. And lastly, all the remaining people will finish the Malami procession.
- The crowd behind should start with old and matured ones, then the youth followed by children and females, if present.
Antyeshti In Antya Karma
The Antyeshti process is where the cremation takes place so the preparation for it begins as soon as the Malami group reaches the Ghat.
- After reaching the Ghat, the body is laid down on a readied pure spot, with Head towards South and Mouth facing North position.
- The place for Antesyti should be as pure as possible so painting it with Gobar is highly recommended.
- The son or the main Karta should wash his own body and also the deceased person’s remembering the Seas and the Holy rivers.
- If possible, the body is rubbed with ghee.
- A Brahmin is placed with a new set of Janai or accordingly with the ethnic customs.
- The upper and lower body and the head are all covered with a different set of cloth.
- A Tulsi Patra leaf is placed inside the mouth of the person.
Chita Preparation for Antyeshti
The placement of woods for the cremation where the last bodily state of the deceased person exists until the fire gulps the physical state of the person is called a Chita. It practically is a bed made up for the dead person to lay to sleep for forever.
There are some conditions for making this bedding of Antya Karma.
- The body should fit inside the Chita completely. The height of it should be as the height of the person from toe to chest.
- Maximum amount of Peepal, Palash, Tulsi, and Shreekhanda should be present,
- The Process shouldn’t be after Sunset.
- The Chita should be facing from North-South.
Rules and Process for Mounting on Chita
- Chita should be cleansed, Sprinkling Panchagavya, then the body is placed on top of it with the head positioned towards North.
- The body is circled three times before placing on top of the Chita.
- According to Shastra, the females are faced upwards and Male are faced downwards, but practically, all are faced upwards.
- After placing the body, more wood is placed on top of it.
- The Chita Pinda is given at this moment.
Dagbatti Process: Antyeshti for Antya Karma
- First, the Son or the main Karta needs to shave his head and take a bath. Facing South with Apashavya Janai he needs to pray to the Fire god in the Chita.
- He should circle the Chita anti-clockwise three or seven times carrying Fire on his right and pieces of woods on his left.
- In the last round, the Karta should stop towards the head. And facing South, First should ignite the Chita near the Head and Chest region.
- Next, the leg region should be fired, and slowly the whole Chita should be ignited.
- In Savya position, he should pour ghee over the Chita and circle it once.
- Halfway through the burning body, Some wood should be dipped in ghee and poured into the burning Chita.
- Towards the end, Seven pieces of wood should each be tipped into the fire after each circle round the Chita.
- The remaining pieces of the Bones and body should be placed inside the fire with sticks to burn every part of it.
- After the Fire completely dies, Water should be poured into the Chita. The Spot should be cleaned and the remaining ashes can be kept to take it to some Holy rivers. It should be completely wrapped in a white cloth and a Clay pot. Later it should be covered with Silk or Deer skin and tied with the Kus until it is taken to the Holy River.
After The Ritual of Antya Karma
This process of Antya Karma ends the physical form of a Human towards te path of Afterlife. The spirit form, carries on the journey to Baikuntha where the soul rightfully belongs, The Karma done in this process helps the journey to be smooth and free of trouble. That is what the Hindu religion practice believes in.
The Funeral process ends here and all the People are advised to take a bath in the River without looking at the place of the Cremation. After Bath, they should all offer water in the name of the deceased soul. And in pure form they all return back home.
While returning, the Kids march in the lead, and then the youth and the older follow their lead. It is a practice that they should return and enter the house after Sunset.
The Antya Karma process ends when the Body burns into ashes and is freed from the physical form of existence and it is believed that now the soul can travel back to Baikuntha, the land of the lords, The lords’ names are very vast and powerful in the Heaven and Earth alike. It is a new beginning of the afterlife and there lies much more of existence beyond that point of life. One with Peace and Nirvana. Until the time comes to repeat itself Back to the Nwaran.