Activity 3: Death in India- Sincie Chacko

From my personal experience with the Indian culture, doctors or midwives are typically in possession of the authoritative knowledge of birth. Years ago, as mentioned in the lecture, majority of births in India were performed outside of a hospital. It was very common for midwives to be utilized more than doctors and hospitals and for people to go without much medication to assist with the pain. Natural births in India were not just a trendy or “organic” way to give birth as it is often seen here in the United States, it was the only option. Over time it has become more common to give birth in hospitals with doctors present in urban areas or big cities, but in rural areas or smaller villages, people still used midwives to deliver their babies. Once the babies are born, depending on the faith practiced by the family, different rituals may take place. People who practice Hinduism have certain rituals they perform or follow but being from a Christian background, not many rituals take place after birth.

Death is determined by doctors in most of India. Once they perform certain tests to ensure the passing of the person, it is finished. In Hinduism, because there are specific post-death rituals that need to be performed by family, they often play a big role in the preparation of the body. Hindus cremate the bodies of their deceased, so much of the preparation is tailored to this process. Hindus in India have the funeral within 24 hours of the person’s passing. (Firth, 1997)

Christians in India do not perform many rituals on bodies after they are deceased. The mortuary prepares the body for the funeral and it goes on from there. Similarly to the US, at Christian funerals in India consist of the viewing or wake and the actual funeral. However, unlike here, there are not separate days for the wake/viewing and the funeral. In India, funerals begin with a time for family and friends to view the body and pay their respects, followed by the actual funeral ceremony. The ceremony is definitely religious and there is a specific service set apart for the funeral. There is a point towards the very end of the service  where the casket is turned from being horizontal to vertical, so the body is facing the East in its last moments on Earth. In Christian faith, the East is significant because that is where the sun rises and represents the risen Son, Jesus Christ. This is why churches are built facing the East, and why in its last moments, bodies are placed facing that way. (James)

The children of the deceased or the immediate family usually hold the highest say in what happens to them. While doctors are significant, because they are very knowledgeable and have the correct knowledge as mentioned in Jordan’s article, the ultimate decision depends on the immediate family as far was what to do and how the process of the death and mourning is carried out.


Firth, Shirley (1997), Dying, Death, and Bereavement in a British Hindu Community. Retrieved 7/24/2015

James, Mariamma, Faith and Practices of the Mar Thoma Church. Retrieved 7/24/2015


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