While most cultures in the world bury their dead, the unique thing about Hindus is that they do cremations. But why do Hindus abide by this exception of burning instead of burying?
A big surprise as it may be, many people don’t know there are several many ways a funeral is conducted all around the World. There are some very strange ones, for example, one in which your body is compressed into a reef in the ocean, and of course there are the most common ones like Burial and cremations.
“Antyesti” literally meaning the last sacrifice is the name given to the Hindu Funeral rites. The Antyesti rite of passage is structured around the premise in ancient scriptures of Hinduism that the microcosm of all living beings is a reflection of a macrocosm of the universe. It is based on the fact that our body and the universe both have five elements: Air, Water, Earth, Space.
The Ancient scriptures aren’t the only reason why people do cremations. To many the thought of a long and slow decomposition process is unappealing. Thus the Indians consider Antyesti( or Antim Sanskar) of paramount importance.
Cremations being done in an Indian village.
Now, India being a land of variety there are many ways for executing the cremation. The traditional one is in which the body is kept atop a pile of wood. There are several modern methods too, like the electric and CNG based methods in which the bodies are rather burnt without woods and just heat(generated by electricity) or in latter CNG.
Nowadays electric and CNG cremations are less expensive than the traditional wood one, and the family related to the deceased can get the ashes for further rituals faster. And much to everyone's knowledge Indians prefer wood cremations over the other methods, but what compels them to do so?
In Hinduism, Moksha is a central topic, and the utmost aim to be obtained after human life is ended. Liberation and freedom reached within one's life are referred to as Moksha.
Hindu scriptures tell that without fire, it’s not possible for the soul to attain Moksha. When the body is encased in the electric crematorium they believe that the soul won’t be easily released, thus not attaining Moksha.