Cremation and Burial Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  19
Wordcount:  5076 Words
Date:  2021-12-15


Death is the biggest reality of life. We are all mortal and we all have to go sometime somewhere (Robert Allen, 2000). Most of the people are concerned about the way their bodies will be disposed off after their death and how their funeral will be performed. The funerals can be defined as a gathering of family and friends who come together to honor the memory of a loved one who has died (Berry Funerals, 2007). Generally people follow the funeral rituals of their insisters however along with the passage of time several alterations have been occurred to different traditional funerals.

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The funeral of decease is a complex process which is influenced by the religious and cultural belief held by the people. The funeral system of a society reflects the attitude of the people towards life and death (Mary N. Harrison, 2005). The history of man kind teaches about several ways that the people used for the disposition of the dead bodies. The study of the funeral rituals of different societies inform us about their thinking style, the value that they placed on life, their social and religious customs, health and wealth of the individual and society as whole.

(Mary N. Harrison, 2005). From the beginning, human beings are paying much attention on adopting different funeral rituals that match with their culture, religion and popular believes (Robert Allen, 2000). This practice is continuing in present time also and the people are concerned with different funeral rituals that suit them in every way. The funerals differ from society to society and culture to culture. Even people living in a same society may have different funeral rituals because they have different religion or they possess different set of believes.

The popular and most practiced funeral rituals around the worlds are Cremation, Burial and Embalming. These methods have been used for the disposition of human dead body. There are lots of differences in the way people use these methods as they have made several changes in the methods according to their own culture and belief. Cremation is a very popular and mostly adopted funeral ritual especially in United States of America. It is prohibited on religious backgrounds but still it is a preferred method which is also used by Buddhist, Hindus and many other nations.

Embalming is very popular in Egypt from where it was originated. It is used in some parts of US and UK as well but it is not a very popular funeral ritual for the American or British societies. Burial is a ritual that is adopted by those people who appose the cremation on the grounds that it is prohibited in Christianity and Islam. Burning a body id like punishing a body thats why people of such belief prefer the burial for the funeral of their deceases. Burial has been practiced sometimes in ancient Roman history. The followers of Christianity and Islam also follow the way to bury their dead in the grounds.

It is observed that cremation is becoming more popular in several societies and it is becoming a normal method of disposing the bodies (B. A. Robinson, 2000). The cremation is dramatically increasing and in the year 1996, 21% of Americans and 36% of Canadians were cremated at death (NFDA, 1997). The rise in cremation can be observed from following statistics. In the paper we will focus on the common practicing of cremation and burial in different society and the changing trends in funeral rituals.

Funeral Rituals of Western Society

In western society people use to practice cremation as well as burial system for funeral. Both of the systems are very old. A popular funeral system in western society is cremation which is the process in which the dead body is put in casket and then burnt on high temperature between 1400 and 1200F in order to reduce the body to bone fragments (R. Hyden Smith, 2000). We can find the roots of Cremation in the Stone Ages when it was practiced by the people of Europe as wall as the people of Near East (R. Hyden Smith, 2000). The cremation was in practice in the time of Roman Empire from 27 B. C to 395 A. D.

It is very common in United States of America, Canada, Japan, India and many other countries. This system is most common in the areas where there is majority of Buddhist and Hindus. The Christians have some controversies regarding cremation. The Catholics also believe that cremation is not the right way to choose for funeral (D. J. Kramer, 2001). Cremation remained popular method used for the disposal of bodies by 800 BCE in Greece, and 600 BCE in Rome. However when the Christianity became the official religion of Roman Empire then the people following other religion were exiled or exterminated from their places.

This religious extremism resulted in the decline of cremation and the people have to other option rather then bury their deceased (B. A. Robinson, 2000). However when there is change of power and people got some freedom they again switched to the cremation. We can have a look at the history of funeral custom of Ancient Roman Empire to have better understanding of the matter. Ancient Rome Funerals Romans either go for burning i. e. cremating or inhumation i. e. burial of their deceased (N. S. Gill, 2007). Cremation is the most preferred Roman method for funeral since the mid of the third century.

The young children are not burned but they are buried near to their houses. The social status of the family plays an important role in the funeral ritual of a deceases person. The funerals of the poor people are used to be very simple however the rich and well off people can have lavish funeral ceremonies. The funeral ceremonies are generally organized by the professional people called Undertakers, who also arrange mourning women and musicians for the ceremony. In the funerals of Romans the relatives close the eyes of the decease while calling the name of the dead person. The body is washed and made ready for cremation.

The gifts given by the people and things that are of personal use of the dead are also placed with the body. They also used to place a coin in the mouth of the deceased as they believe that Charon will take the dead across the rivers of the underworld so the coin will be used as payment for this journey (N. S. Gill, 2007). The body is put in to a funeral pyre and set to the fire. When the flame rose, the undertaker threw perfume on the fire. After the body is cremated the ashes are collected and placed in any container. The selection of the container depends upon the economic condition of the deceased family.

It could be a cloth bag, a marble casket, any glass or metal container or a gold casket. Some people also used to inhumane or bury the bodies of the deceased (N. S. Gill, 2007). The bodies are covered either with sack, shroud or properly prepared coffin. They bury the bodies in the graves and marked them with tombstones. Present Situation Now days cremation is a preferred method of funeral in the western societies. An important reason to prefer cremation is the shortage of land, the people have to arrange or either wait for the space in ground for burial whereas cremation needs no area.

The resulted urns of cremation can be placed anywhere in a container. Thats why it is gaining acceptability among the European as well as American people. In the year 1997, the cremation rate at Nevada, a state of USA, touches the level of 60%. The above mentioned statistics also show that the Americans also prefer cremation for disposal of their deceased. There are several reasons behind that. People think that it takes little time and little cost. Some also support cremation as it is an environment friendly process. The Catholics apposes the cremation because they have faith in the resurrection of the human body (D. J. Kramer, 2001). The burial method also demonstrates some respect for the body thats why at present, cremation is not allowed by the Orthodox Jews, the Islamic religion, Eastern Orthodox religion and some Fundamental Christian sects (US Funerals Online, 2001). A main difference between the cremation and burial is the speed of transformation; as in cremation it took just around two hours to dispose the soft parts of the body and in burials the body takes month or years to decay (Douglas J. Davies, 2003). Cremation in to destroy the body and burial is to preserve it.

Funerals of Eastern Society and Egyptian Custom The funeral rituals vary among societies. Culture, religion and common belief play important role in determining the way people select for them for funeral. In different counties there are different methods of funerals. Following is the description of the funeral rituals adopted by different eastern countries and different people belonging to different religions. Sikh Funerals The Sikh believes that death is a natural process which is result of Gods Will (The Alabama Baptist, 2005).

The funeral of a deceased is called Antam Sanskar in Sikh culture. The Sikhs also use the method of cremation for the funeral of the bodies however they may go for burial or disposal in sea in case the cremation is not possible but the preferred and most common method is cremation. The Sikh people take the body of the deceased to their place of worship called Girdwara on the day of cremation. The hymns are recited from the Sikh Scripture and Kitran is performed by the Ragis. The family members of the deceased sit near the body and recite the Waheguru.

The body is then taken to the area of cremation where some speeches about the dead person and the Sikhs night time prayer Kirtan Sohila are recited. The cremation is stated by any close relative, usually the eldest son who light up the fire or press the button. When the body is burnt the ashes are collected after some time. The ashes are immersed in to the nearest rive. In Sikhism there is no concept of keeping and preserving the remains or ashes. After cremation they may held a service called Sahaj Paath Bhog at their Gurdwara (Funeral Encyclopedia)

Islamic Funeral

In Islam there is a concept that the soul is departed from the body after death and that body should be buried in to the land because on the Day of Judgment, God will make bodies alive and collect them at the place or ground of judgment. Cremation is strictly not allowed in Islam and the only method is the burial. It is preferred to bury the body as soon as possible. The deceased body is called corpse or Mayyat in Islam. The funeral custom of Muslim directs them first of all to wash the body so that it can be physically clean. Then the corpse is wrapped in a plain cloth called coffin.

The coffin must be simple and plain and the preferred cloth is white cotton. They also put some perfumer on that cloth. When the body is ready the people gathered at a particular place and offer the Janazah Prayer after which the corpse is taken to the graveyard for burial. The corpse is buried in the grave made up in the ground after which all the people collectively pray to God for the forgiveness of the dead person. They held a particular memorial or prayer services at their home on the third day of the death. This ceremony is called Soyam (, 2000) Hinduism and Funerals The Hindus believe that the soul of a person is not limited to any one body. It can change its body and hence they use to cremate their deceased in order to show that the bodily life is temporary and the spiritual life is eternal. Except for children under the age of 5 years, the Hindu uses the method of Cremation for funeral. According to their belief the cremation is the only way through which the body is returned to the basic five elements of fire, water, earth, air and space (The Alabama Baptist, 2005).

The body in placed on the ground after death pointing towards south, in this way it touches the earth. The Ganges river water is poured in to the mouth of deceased. The Basil leaves and sandal wood paste are placed on the body. The elder son or close relative whisper near the ear of the deceases, the religious words of Hinduism Ohm namah shivay or Om namo bhagavate vasudevaya (The Alabama Baptist, 2005). An oil lamp is also lit besides the deceased. The funeral should be done within a day because the Hindu believes that body will not remain pure if the funeral is delayed.

When a body is cremated its ashes are poured in to the river Ganges or in to the sea. The whole activity is guided by a priest called pundit. The mourning period continues for twelve days in Hinduism and on the thirteenth day a ceremony is held and all the family members of the deceased take a purifying bath. Japanese Funeral Customs In Japan the funeral rituals are different in different regions however vast majority of the funeral rituals of Japan are inspired by the Buddhist Philosophy. Cremation rituals have been adopted by the Japanese as inspired by their religion.

There are some things that are common among all the cremation funerals of Japan like the wake service, funeral service and the bone collection etc however the age, social status and economic conditions of the person are also important factors (Billy Hammond, 2001). In Japan, the cremation funerals are performed by following some particular steps. First of all the body of the deceased is washed and then dress up in suit or kimono and then the body is taken for the wake service. The deceased body is placed in dry ice in front of the family members who dress up them selves in black or white suits or kimono.

The body is then put in the casket and along with the body there are several other things also placed with the body like traditional white kimono, sandals and legging etc. The Japanese also held a concept that the deceased has to pay toll across the River of Hells so they place some paper money with him also (Hammond, 2001). The wake and funeral ceremony is performed and then people sign the registry book and present the condolence money which is given to the family members later. After condolence drinks and food is served to the visitors. The wake service is performed by the Buddhist priest who read the sutra.

During the service family members and visitors pay respect to the deceased one by one. The visitors leave and the family members stay with the deceased at night because the funeral is held on the next day. The body is then placed in the temple and after reading of sutra the casket is taken to the hearse which takes it to the crematorium where the casket is placed on the sliding tray connected with oven. When the casket containing the body slides in to the oven a time is given to the family member for collection of the remains who pick the bones and put them in to the urns.

They may place it in to family grave or temple. After the funeral, the memorial service is held and according to the Japanese customs either the services is held for fist seven days or 1st, 3rd, 5th , 7th or 13th years and so on. Funerals in Egypt The Egyptian has adopted the Embalming for the funerals of their deceased. Embalming was started in 6000 BC on the land of Egypt. The Egyptian do this on the basis of their religious believes. The Egyptians embalmers were the members of priesthood (Wyfrda. org, 2001).

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Egyptians were the first people who believe in the immortality of the souls (The Alabama Baptist, 2005). They preserve the body as they believe that the soul will return to the body when it will complete the circle of necessity which is a journey of 3000 years according to their belief. There are three different methods of embalming the people select one according to their economic conditions as there is bid difference in the cost of these embalming methods. For embalming a body the brain is removed from the skull and the skull is filled with resin.

The internal organs are removed from the body which were then washed and mixed with the resin and spices. This process is called Evisceration (Wyfrda. org, 2001), after which the body is immersed in sodium salt. After 20-70 days the body is washed and dehydrated in the sun. The body is then wrapped tightly with long and broad bandages and given to the family members. All these activities are performed in a particular place called Necropolis which means city of the dead (Wyfrda. org, 2001). What is Culture and does it affect Funeral Rituals? In simple words, culture is set of common believes held by group of people.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines culture as the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought which can be considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population. The cultural values are greatly influenced by the religious values and people generally adopted such culture that can walk along their religious values. If anything is prohibited in the religion then there is always a great chance that the followers of that religion will not adopt that thing as culture however it is not necessary.

The Christian and Catholic people, who are prohibited by religion to use the cremation method for funeral, often avoid cremation but the increasing trend of cremation in the American society shows that people are overlooking the religion command and adopting this method as they find it more easy and practical. The culture value vary from society to society and as a result of this variation there is difference in the funeral rituals, even if the funeral ritual are same, then also there are some differences in practicing the same system.

For example cremation is being practiced in America but their way of doing this is quite different with the cremations practiced in Japan or in India. The difference is the culture thats why people following a common method are still different from each other in many aspects. The burial is performed by many Christian, Catholics and Muslims but all of them practice the funeral in different style. It proves that culture is an important point that defines the way and method, a person can adopt for the cremation of the deceased.

Changing Trends of Funerals

For a long time burial remains the popular funeral ritual however the people now preferred cremation. The Direct Cremation is also getting popularity due to numerous reasons. The direst cremation is economical as compared with the traditional funeral services. There is such a big difference in the expenditure of direst cremation and traditional funeral that a direct cremation requires about 1/10th of the cost of traditional funeral (Peter M. Frisolone, 2004). A basic cremation costs between $1,200 and $1,400, which much cheaper than a casket funeral, and is easier to arrange (Marie Evan, 2002).

The memorial service is not arranged in direct cremation however if the family members want to arrange a, memorial service for their loved one then they can do it anytime. They have an opportunity to arrange the service at any other day that would be convenient for both the family members and the visitors. In the memorial service better arrangements could be mage as the family members get more time to prepare for that. The Americans are moving towards direst cremation however some of them still feel that the direst cremation didnt give a chance to grief.

Thats why many of them arranged the memorial ceremony after some days of funeral. People need to grieve and ceremonies help them do that. (Marie Evan, 2002) The cremation not only saves the money but also save the time of people. The traditional ceremonies require lot of time for the gathering of the people. The wake ceremony is performed a day before, the next day the funeral ceremony is held and after that funeral is occurred. All this process needs lot of time and the direct cremation save lot to peoples time.

Cremation is an environment friendly option for disposing the bodies however pollution questions have been raised due to the release of certain gases in the environment. Most of the crematoriums are gas fuelled and the increasing trend of cremation is also raising the energy consumption (Peter M. Frisolone, 2004). Some people also not interested in the praying ceremonies as they dont believe in the spiritual values while some people may also have bad experience of viewing the dead body thats why they may want a quick disposition process for the body.

A direct cremation helps them in doing so (Marie Evan, 2002). Models of Grieve and Bereavement Numerous social scientists and psychologists have work out on the process of grief that resulted from the death and dying of one living being on another (Gina Copp, 1997). During last three decade many theoretical frameworks have been presented by the researchers. Among them some important models are presented by Elizabeth Kubler Rose in 1969, Glaser &Strauss in 1965, Pattison in 1977, Corr in 1992, Sundow in 1967, Weisman in 1972, Hinton in 1966, Buckman in 1993 and Copp in 1996.

Most of the early theories were based on the medical care because the researchers were also related to the healthcare fields. When Kubler Rose presented a stage theory, it become very popular and people show great acceptance towards the theory. Kubler Roses Stage Theory Kubler Rose interviewed about 200 patients who were in very critical condition and about to die. From the finding and observation of these interviews Rose presented a paradigm that shows the peoples responses in coping with dying. The five stages of the theory are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

The theory said that when a person get to know about his illness or disease that he is suffering from, he rejected it and dont accept that he is suffering from it, this is the first stage called Denial in which the person denies the situation. In the second stage the person become very angry with his illness and in the third stage he tried to engage himself in bargaining process. He makes certain promises with God against some more life time. After bargaining he gets depressed. As far as he realizes that he is suffering from any disease and he has to accept it, then he feel miserable and sad.

The last stage is acceptance. A person may go through the realization and complete knowledge about his illness if he gets some time good health care facilities. This five stage theory enables many other experts to understand the systematic description of death process (Gina Copp, 1997). But at the same time this theory had been criticized on several grounds especially because it stated very systematic grounds for the process of death. Buckman three stage Model of the process of dying In order to cover some loopholes of the earlier theories, Buckman presented a three stage model in 1993.

He said that when people get information about their illness it is not necessary that all of them react in same way and follow particular stages. He point out that the reaction of the people largely depends upon their character and their attitude that how they have faced difficulties in his life. The model of Buckman presented three stages. The first one is the Initial stage in which the people have to face the threat of death. When they got to know about their illness, many feelings grow inside them like fear, anxiety, shock, anger, denial, guilt, hope, bargaining etc. After the initial stage people entered the chronic stage i.e. being ill. In this stage the early responses and feelings of the people become stronger and they also face depression. The final stage is acceptance in which people finally accept that they are suffering from some serious illness which will soon result in their death. They will no longer remain depressed and behave in normal ways. Like the Kubler Rose Model, the Buckman Model was also criticized by the experts and they argue that this model is largely depending upon emotions and it is also not necessary that the chronic stage happen to the people (Gina Copp, 1997).

Glaser and Strauss Theory

Another theory was presented by Glaser and Strauss in 1965 which is context of the awareness theory. For developing this theory the researcher keenly observed the interaction of the critical patients with the hospital staff. In their theory they presented four context of awareness which are; closed awareness, suspicious awareness, mutual pretence awareness and open awareness. The first type of awareness is close awareness which occurs when the healthcare staff is fully aware about the critical condition of the patient but they did not share it with that patience and keep himself unaware about the seriousness of his illness.

The second type of awareness is suspicion awareness when the patient looks for real information about his condition and he communicates with the doctors and nurses regarding his illness and the treatment. If the healthcare staff pretended that the patient is not in critical position then it is possible that the patient may died without knowing about the seriousness of his disease. The third awareness is the Mutual Pretence Awareness when both the patient and the healthcare staff are fully aware about the illness and seriousness of the patient condition, but they pretended as nothing is really problematic and the patient is doing quite well.

In open awareness both the patient and healthcare staff know about the condition of patient and they also show it through their actions and attitudes. In this type of awareness there is great possibility that the patient will face lot of depression (Gina Copp, 1997). Along with the above described theories some other models were also presented by the researchers. Many of them are very important and contributed a lot towards the better understanding of grief and bereavement over death, however it is been argued that theories are not much satisfying and there is need to develop some more acceptable theories.

These models are proved to be more significant for the people related with the healthcare field as they can employ new measures to deal with the patients who have serious illness. In the western societies it has been accepted that some of these models really work and some dont but in the eastern world there is little awareness and acceptance about these theories. Commentarial Aspects of Funerals Like the development in other sectors the funeral industry is also growing rapidly. The professional organizations have been established to assist the people through out the funeral process either they go for burial or cremation.

Lot of emphasis is being giving to the advertisement of funeral services. Many funeral homes are advertising through the print media and the technological advancement has enhanced their business also. Many of the funeral houses have launched their websites where they describe all about their services in details and convince people in much more effective way to use their funeral service. The website advertisement not only inform the people about the possible options they can have for the funeral ceremony but also offer them large variety of funeral plans and packages for their relatives as well as preplan funeral service for people themselves.

The commercial aspect of the funeral rituals has added to the cost of the funeral because the funeral houses have invented innovative accessories to be used in the process and as a result cost of funeral rise for those who want to have a lavish departure for themselves or their relatives. The funeral houses use several attractive and emotional appeals in order to convince people to choose their service. Conclusion The above discussion highlighted the background of burial and cremation and also descried different funeral rituals adopted by people of different religion and different cultures.


Culture is an important factor in determining the way to funeral rituals. It is revealed from the discussion that the people of America are now moving towards fast and economic way of funeral i. e. direct cremation. Cremation in forbidden in many religions however there is a growing trend of adopting this method of disposing the deceased. There are several approached towards defining the models of grief and bereavement however yet there is no such model is presented that satisfy the experts and cover all the aspects of the issue.


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