THE CULTURE AND CUSTOM OF THE INDIAN COMMUNITY: DEATH: MANAGING THE DEAD BODY
The Indian community believes the concept of reborn in that death is akin to a sleep and they will wake up after the sleep. Indian experts too say that death is a separation of the soul from the physical body and that the physical body will deteriorate but the soul returns to the afterworld. The Indian dead bodies are cremated.
MANAGING THE DEAD BODY
The dead body is placed in the living room. The head is turned towards the south. Oil lamp or kaamaatci amman vilakku is lighted, a coconut is divided into two and betel leaves are placed near the dead body. Incense and camphor are burnt and the smoke symbolises peace of mind. Tiruniiru, a substance considered pure, is smeared on the dead body forehead before prayer begins. The dead body must be well looked after while it is in the house.
The thumbs and big toes are tied with white cloth and the hands are placed on the chest. The eyes are tightly closed and smeared with turmeric powder as disinfectant and then wrapped with a piece of cloth. Pounded betel leaves are inserted into the mouth and then wrapped with a piece of cloth, while the ear lobes are blocked with cotton wool. A coin is placed on the forehead. Scented water is sprinkled on the dead body and then the body is smoked with burnt incense to avoid foul odour. To show the family sadness hung pictures are placed inside out while ornaments are brought out of the living room.
THE VAAIKKARISI CEREMONY
After being bathed and decorated beautifully the dead body is placed inside a coffin with camphor to avoid foul odour. A small amount of rice is inserted into the dead body mouth to signify the final offering, and this is what is called vaaikkarisi.
Kollic catti means a clay pot containing fire. The pot is lifted with coconut frond, divided into three parts at the tip and tied to the pot, carried by either the son or the father. The person who carries the pot must accompany the dead body to the cremation place, and holy music is played throughout the juorney.
The coffin is carried to the cremation place in a stretcher. Upon reaching the place the stretcher carriers have to pay the cremation handlers as payment for the preparations. The coffin has to be moved a few times upon reaching the cremation place beginning with changing the position of the feet and then the head. This belief is to enable the dead person to be in the abdomen of the Goddes of Earth.
The cremation place is filled with firewood upon which the dead body is placed on top and covered with another layer of firewood as well as dried cowdung and sprinkled with ignition oil. Coins are placed inside the dhoti to signify that the dead agrees to be cremated. Then the prayer ceremony begins. The kollic catti bearers encircle the dead body three times clockwise. At the third encircling they are in front of the dead body squatting but with their backs facing the dead. Three lighted wood are pierced to the ground consecutively. This ceremony is to lessen the dead family sadness.