Written by London swaminathan
Date: 5 APRIL 2017
Time uploaded in London:-19-37
Post No. 3791
Pictures are taken from various sources; thanks.
First part of this article, “Interesting Funerary Customs during Ramayana Period” (Post No.3782) was posted on 2nd APRIL 2017
Valmiki amazes us by giving us very minute details.
Following is the second and final Part:-
“On the 11th day of the funeral of Dasaratha, Bharata donated gold and gems to the Brahmins. The donation list includes cows and goats, male and female servants, chariots and special mansions!
When Bharata broke the news of Dasaratha’s death to Rama in the forest Rama fainted and looked like an elephant crushed by a landslide. Another simile Valmiki used was Rama fell like a tree with its flowering branches that is severed by an axe in the forest.
Sita also felt sad and Rama consoled her. Then he said to Lakshmana, “ Bring the pressed pulp of the Ingudi tree and fresh bark so that we may proceed with the water rite for our magnanimous father. Let Sita go first, you follow her and I will be the last in the funeral procession. Sumatara, Chief Minister, held Rama’s hand and led them to the Mandakini River. There they offered the water to Dasaratha, saying ‘Father, may this prove agreeable to you.’ Then Rama turned towards south and offered water again saying, ‘I offer it to you. Let it reach you in the region of your ancestors. Then Rama offered Pinda. He placed the pulp of the Ingudi tree mixed with Badari fruits on the Dharba grass.
( Though we don’t use Ingudi pulp and Badari fruits nowadays, Dharba grass is used until now.)
Then Rama killed demon Viradha, by throwing his body into a pit, at his request. We didn’t know what happened to his body. Viradha was the one ho suggested that he must be thrown into a pit
Jatayu cremated! (Aranya Kanda)
When Jatayu died half way through his speech, Rama decided to give the honour by cremating him. He instructed Lakshmana to bring the fuel. Then Rama himself placed the King of Winged Creatures on the funeral pyre and ignited the flame. Then Rama went into the forest with his brother, killing a few fat Rohi deer, stewed the flesh on the green grass as an oblation to the bird. Tearing off the flesh of those deer and kneading it into balls, he offered it. He recited those sacred formulas uttered by the Brahmins so as to send Jatayu’s soul to heaven. Both the brothers went to the river, bathed and did Udaka ceremony (ritual presentation of water to the ancestors).
Vali’s Funeral Rites (Kishkinda Kanda)
Vali (Bali) was the monkey king. When he was killed by Rama, Sugriva, Tara and others were grief stricken. Lakshmana says to Sugriva, “Inaugurate obsequies without delay with the assistance of Tara and Angada. Issue the order that a large quantity of dry would be gathered together with the sacred sandal wood, for the funeral pyre. Let Angada bring garlands and robes of every kind, together with butter, oil, perfumes and all that is requisite. O Tara, you do find a palanquin without delay. Let those who are skilful and strong, accustomed to palanquins, hold themselves in readiness to bear Vali away.
Vali’s body was placed in a chariot with beautiful carvings. Priceless ornaments, strings of pearls and splendid crowns gave it a dazzling appearance; it was covered with clay, painted red and sprinkled with sandal paste. Festooned with wraths of lotuses, shining like the dawn, it was strewn with innumerable flowers.
“ Having laid the corpse on its couch, Sugriva covered the body with ornaments of every kind together with wreaths and cloths. The great monkey leader preceded the litter, scattering jewels of every kind in profusion. All the wives of Vali accompanied the procession. Angada ignited the funeral pyre. He circumambulated it. Rama officiated at the funeral rites.
Valmiki gave all the minute details of the funeral ceremony. Normally people consider it inauspicious to talk about it. But Valmiki was very descriptive. Thanks to him, now we know how it was done several thousand years ago. For great saints like Valmiki, life and death are like changing worn-out clothes.
Ravana’s Funeral (Yuddha Kanda)
When Ravana was killed by Rama in the final battle, his brother Vibhishana refused to do the cremation. But Rama asked him to do it saying, “ Death brings enmity to an end”.
At these words of Raghava, Bibishana hastened to carry out the funeral rites.
Entering the City of Lanka, that Indra began to prepare for the Agnihotra Ceremony in honour of his brother. Carts, wood of varying essences, fire utensils, sandal, logs of every kind, fragrant gums, perfumes, cloths, jewels, pearls and coral were all assembled by him and he soon returned surrounded by titans, whereupon accompanied by Malyavan, he initiated the sacrifice.
Having placed Ravana, the Supreme Lord of the titans, wrapped in linen cloth, s on a golden bier, the Twice born with Bibishana at their head, their eyes suffused with tears, raised the litter decorated with many fragrant and divine symbols to the sound of innumerable music instruments and funeral chants and all, turning their faces towards the south took up pieces of wood which had been distributed among them.
Then the Brahmins, versed in the Yajur Veda, bearing flaming brands went forward and those who had taken refuge with them and the women of the inner apartments followed sobbing with tottering steps, running hither and thither. And Ravana was placed in a spacious ground, amidst profound lamentation and a great pyre was built with pieces of sandal and Padmaka wood and grass, according to tradition; and he was covered with antelope skins.
Thereafter in honour of the King of the Titans, a rare offering was made to the ancestors and the altar was installed to the south-west with the sacred fire in its proper place. Then curd and clarified butter were poured on Ravana’s shoulder and a wooden mortar placed at his feet with one between his thighs. Vessels of wood and the lower and upper sticks, with a spare pestle, were set there to the prescribed rules.
Now the titans sacrificed a goat in honour of their king, according to tradition, as taught by the great Rishis, and, dipped a cloth in butter, they covered the face of their sovereign, who was adorned with garlands and sprinkled with perfumes. Thereafter Bibisbana’s companions, their faces bathed in tears, covered the body with cloths and every kind of roasted grain, whereupon Bibishana kindled the fires according to the sacred rites and, having laved him with a cloth which had been previously wetted with water and mingled with linseed and sacrificial grass, be bowed down to him; then he addressed the consorts of Ravana again and again in order to console them, finally entreating them to return home. And when they had all re-entered the City of Lanka, that Indra among the Titans, took up his place by Rama in an attitude of reverence.
A lot of details are here about the funeral of a Rakshasa King. It differs in many ways with the modern funeral. But in a vast country like India with thousands of castes and sub castes the funeral rites differ widely from area to area.
In Dasaratha’s funeral Sama Veda was used and here in Ravana’s funeral Yajur Veda was used.
Earlier in Aranya Kanda, we came across the shapeless demon Kabandha who was killed by Rama and Lakshmana. he was also cremated by the brothers; though he melted like butter in the fire, he rose up from the ashes, wearing spotless raiment ad a celestial garland. Now he looked very handsome and wore ornaments in his limbs and ascended a chariot drawn by swans. Before ascending to heaven he instructed Rama and Lakshmana to meet Sabhari, a female ascetic.
The chapters on funerals raise many questions. If Vyasa was the one who divided Vedas into four, how come Valmiki mentioned two different Vedas. Probably the Vedas were known as Rik, Sama and Yajjur already and Vyasa allocated the portions to his four disciples for preservation. Why two different Vedas were used in two different funerals is also another debatable matter.
The funeral processions were pompous, but we must remember they were ones for kings like Dasaratha,Bali (Vali) and Ravana
Lot of Dhanams (gifts) were given to Brahmins. Bird Jatayu, Demon Ravana, Monkey Vali/Bali and Human Dasaratha were cremated according to the scriptures. So there were no caste differences among them. Thanks to Valmiki we learnt a lot which can be compared with the funeral rites in the Smrtis and other cultures.