Patheos answers the question:

Why Do Hindus Cremate Their Dead?

Offering in Hindu ritual

The reasons Hindus cremate their dead is that they believe the soul outlives the body, and that the cremation of the body helps the soul move on from its connection to the physical world. Cutting these ties to the physical world can free the soul to move more quickly towards its new spiritual destiny. This is also one of the reasons that Hindu burial practices typically happen very soon after the death, ideally within 24 hours. The goal is to help the soul along its journey away from this physical plane of existence, and the cremation of the body is one of the more significant ways that the soul is helped. Therefore, it should be done quickly. The cremation is one part of the traditional burial rites in Hindu funerals, but there are many other steps and moments, both before and after the cremation, that are important. These include purification of the family members and certain offerings. Leading up to the cremation, the full burial rites will encompass a series of intricate rituals, and include roles for different family members. There are also traditions regulating the interactions between living individuals and the dead body, as the corpse is considered impure once the person is dead.

In Hindu belief systems, the corpse serves no special purpose once the person dies (unlike, for example, other religions which believe in physical resurrection). A belief in reincarnation is central to Hindu belief systems about the world. This means that the soul will return to the physical reality of earth, but in a different body, likely many times. The body the soul occupied during their life is not their eternal body, and not eternally connected to their soul. Therefore, the cremation of the body helps to release the soul from its bond to the body, and to the physical world in general, and there is no religious need to maintain the corpse. This is important, because detachment from physical needs and wants is an important goal in many Hindu belief systems, and one that many Hindus will strive after during their lives, but might only achieve in death. One concern with not being able to cremate the body quickly is that the soul might linger, still attached to its body, and be stuck between the two plans of the physical and the spiritual world.

Babies, children, and declared holy individuals or saints are typically not cremated. This is because babies and children, typically under the age of 14, are still considered pure and not yet attached to their body. As a result, the body can be buried because the soul is not in danger of lingering too close and remaining attached to the body once it has died. Holy people, or saints, are considered to have become purified, and thus achieved the state of not being attached to their bodies while alive on earth. Therefore they also are not at risk of remaining attached to their body after death.

You can learn more about Hindu rituals here.

3/23/2021 6:32:41 PM