By nature, Hindu funerals are quite straightforward and fast paced, so you might find yourself attending one on short notice.
While non-Hindu guests may attend funeral rites, it’s still important to be mindful of practices you can and cannot do. To help you prepare for that, here’s a quick guide on things you should avoid when attending a Hindu funeral.
Avoid wearing black attire
Unlike most religions like Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam, wearing black or dark coloured attire during Hindu funerals is considered inappropriate. In Hinduism, the colour black represents darkness, unhappiness, and bad luck.
Instead, it’s more acceptable to wear white clothing. White symbolises purity, and it’s the preferred colour of attire for men, women, and children.
Avoid wearing extravagant attire
Like most religions, it’s considered impolite to wear extravagant attires. This includes flashy jewelry, clothing, accessories, and shoes.
It’s always best to wear simple and conservative clothing to a Hindu funeral. Ideally, women should wear clothing that covers their knees and arms. Open-toed shoes are also acceptable.
Don’t bring gifts
Compared to other religions, it’s not common to bring gifts to the funeral. In fact, it may even be considered offensive on some occasions.
Hence, be sure to avoid bringing gifts like food and flowers to the wake or funeral. If you wish to bring the family a gift, you may do so after the mourning period.
Traditionally, Hindus normally hold a brief ceremony at the end of the 13-day mourning period. Visitors are normally welcome to this occasion, in which case giving fruit baskets is perfectly acceptable.
Avoid leaving during chanting
Chanting mantras, hymns, and prayers is an important ritual during Hindu wakes. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of these rites when it happens.
That means silently taking a seat on your arrival. You may approach the family to give your condolences once the ritual has finished.
If it occurs during your visit, guests (especially non-Hindus) aren’t expected to take part in these rituals. You may simply stand or sit in the corner, and refrain from using your phone or talking to another guest.
If you need to leave, make sure to wait until the rites are over. Doing so while these rites are ongoing may disrupt it, which is also considered highly inappropriate.
Don’t expect a reception unless invited
After cremation, some families hold a reception either at the funeral home or at home/HDB void decks. Normally, this reception is only reserved for immediate family members.
So unless the host family has explicitly invited you to come, don’t expect or ask to come to the reception. While the provision of food isn’t allowed at the moment due to COVID-19 regulations, be sure to keep this in mind once restrictions are lifted.