through which they are united. Such a marriage is therefore regarded as
indissoluble; and if any dispute arises between the wedded couple, it is the
third party, namely dharma, that mediates and unites them. Dharma would
not allow them to separate.
The last sacrament in the life of a Hindu is the antyesti. A Hindu consecrates
his entire life through the performance of various sacraments at suitable
stages, and at his death the survivors consecrate the event by death rites for
his future good and spiritual felicity. Though performed after a man’s death,
this samskara is not the less important, because for a Hindu the value of the
next world is higher than that of the present.
The disposal of the dead by cremation was treated as a sacrifice and
became the prevalent mode, though in special cases, burial and water burial
also were allowed. The whole life of a Hindu is looked upon as a continuous
sacrifice, and death is celebrated as the last sacrificial act of his earthly
Death and the disposal of the dead fall under the following heads.
• Approach of death: The person whose death is near bids farewell to
his assembled relatives and the world; alms and gifts are distributed
for his future happiness.
• Pre-disposal ceremony: Oblations are offered into the sacrificial fire
maintained by him. It has become customary now to drop Ganga
water and tulasi leaves into the mouth of the dying.
• The bier: A special oblong frame is prepared to remove the dead
body to the place of cremation, and the body is formally laid on it.
• Removal of the corpse: In ancient times the bier was put on a
bullock cart. Now the bier is carried by men—the nearest relatives
and friends of the deceased—as an act of honour to him.
• The funeral procession: The chief mourner, usually the eldest son of
the dead person, is followed by relatives and friends, as he proceeds
to the place of cremation.
• Anustarani (the accompanying cow): She is believed to be helpful
in crossing the ocean of mortality. She is given away as gift and let