ACTIVE PARTICIPATION DURING FUNERALS AND DEATH
Birth! When takes place everybody is happy and overwhelmed with joy, but the new offspring comes crying into this world and has to face the sorrows and joys of all sorts. By the time death comes, the life has established relationships with other human beings who already exist and with those who will take birth during the tenure of the life. The sharing of time, ideas, thoughts, emotions, and love has made that life more strong and compassionate- life worth living. In this world, the dependency and the give & take has made people to live with each other more harmoniously. A time comes to part – when death occurs, in most cases the opposite happens, the dead person attains freedom and peace from this struggle of the so called living. People are unhappy and drowned in sorrow. To pay the last respects and the last rite – the Funeral and the Attendance both are equally important. It’s interesting to explore the participation of people at Funerals. They participate – Passively Active, Actively Passive and Actively Active.
You and I have attended funerals and have observed small or big crowds at them. The participation of relatives, friends, neighbours, and people from the community attending funerals is active and diligent, though it is not an occasion to be celebrated. This is the observance throughout the world for that matter. People gather for the person’s last rites to pay respects. People of the same community gather quickly and participate actively. It is rather an occurrence, very silent and closemouthed.
You are remembered by the kith and kin, on which occasions you had attended. Had you come for the Marriage function, the House warming or the Funeral? You may miss the first two but cannot afford to not attend the last one- the Funeral. If you do not attend, you are marked. In India, at least in many communities it is the practice. At least one person from one family will attend the occasion.
People do not care to meet known friends and relatives when they are alive and normal; leave aside; they don’t meet them when they are in problems & financial crisis or ill health, but they make sure to attend their funerals. So, many people whether they are interested or not have to actively participate. I have seen many friends and relatives attending funerals of their relatives, whom they have never seen in their life time. If that was their love towards them they could at least visit them when the person was alive. It is wondering to observe such an attitude towards life. Attending funerals is a duty, a compulsion; for the sake or heck of it. At some occasions and places it is a celebration, though every fellow involved knows that the time is for mourning.
I still remember the first funeral that I attended while I was still studying in tenth standard. I am talking of the situation few decades back. One of my classmates father had expired, we got the news immediately and it was evening by that time. A small crowd had gathered. After waiting for some more people to gather, they started the last rituals at about 11pm; by the time the body was lifted it was almost midnight. The cremation ground was some were too far which I had never seen. During those days the body had to be carried by the four men on their shoulders, every few seconds, men used to change and give their shoulders to carry the body. On the way to cremation ground, heavy rains started and there was no question of stopping anywhere, you just had to move. By the time we reached the cremation ground it might have clocked 2 am. The pouring of the rain had come to the tail end. The body was kept with lot of hurry in the place made for it. Every person at the funeral was so active in cremating the body. Some brought the wooden logs. Some were busy collecting old cycle tyres. Some brought kerosene. Some running here and there to collect random things for fire, except, maybe, one or two of the relatives, none of them showed a sign of grief. There was a lot of shouting also, and at times blaming each other in the high tone. Everybody wanted to finish the rite at the earliest and go home. They finished the whole ritual with a sigh of relief.
Looking to all this at that tender age it stunned me. I was rather disheartened and felt bad for such disrespect was given to the body. So! This was death I felt. The event was lingering in my mind for quite a number of days, and it was not so easy to forget. I was even inspired to write a big essay on the experience, which I did not attempt, I now feel for it.
There is a place in my Town; it is so strange to know, that if anybody in that place dies during day time, especially after 10 in the morning, he is cursed because everybody would have gone for their respective work. All those cannot participate in the funeral, because by evening all last rites would be finished. It’s an area of working people. If suppose, anyone dies in the evening or early night, everybody is happy for they can actively participate. How it all goes by the night is wonder striking. The whole night is a celebration. Some of them gather and contribute to cook a midnight snack, at times, only one person may bear the expenses. No money for this purpose is asked to any of the relatives of the deceased. Bhajan parties are called to sing for the night. Mostly songs on the almighty, songs on great yogis or yathis and their sayings or lyrics of despair are sung. The Whole Street or Chawl is awake. People from all sects gather and from every household, maybe only the children and old ones may go to sleep. The women folk sit before the body in a big group and cry and sometimes sing a song, some women are talented to cry so loudly that they make others cry and they are encouraged. People sit in groups and discuss on varied subjects, politics could be the main subject. Some people may discuss of the one departed. Scores of them will be playing cards and many would be watching them. There will be constant supply of cigarettes, beedies, betal nuts and betal leaves. Some would be secretly enjoying alcohol. Fire Crackers will be used now and then. The deceased family would be waiting to receive their loved ones, who would be coming from far of places. The whole night goes like this ceremoniously. Next day morning after all known people have come and gathered the last rituals would start. The procession would start with firecrackers all along the road. The whole episode will finish by noon. That day is a holiday for the people of the area; they have a fantastic reason and excuse not to go for work.
I have just quoted examples of behavior; it varies from person to person and place to place. I would not want to elaborate, but there is every scope to do it.
A PUBLIC ACCOUNT
We can find or might have observed, at so many funeral services or funeral rites, people participate actively with or without grief. The death of renowned people, politicians and celebrities are attended by hundreds and thousands of human beings. At times participation by the mobs gathered; lost their own lives or have had big fights. I give here below some incidents taken place in this world which most of us know of Politicians, Dictators, Celebrities and Public figures.
It may be a big list to quote, you may add them into your minds and just think of the subject I am throwing light upon.
Altogether, the active participations at funerals or death at large, give an enormous scope for thinking, on what type of relationship man keeps with each other, whether with the kin or a public figure.
Across the world, since centuries, so many types of practices, rituals and rites are performed. Funeral is conducted by various communities, in different ways all over the world. They might seem strange, surprising and ridiculous. It is the faith in the Rituals, and Reverence for the dead, and at times it is Vengeance. There might be so many other examples, which I might not have quoted, but in this world we come across such situations that give food for our thoughts.