Do we ritualise death to quell our own Sorrows and Anxieties?

Simple rituals, even those that are invented or made up can reduce people’s feeling of grief, say Harvard University experiments

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A Cemetery. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Veneration of the dead is one of the integral parts of religious practices all over the world
  • The earliest evidence of burial comes from Upper Palaeolithic burial sites dating back thousands of years ago
  • Studies show that we ritualise death for our own sake, to quell our own sorrows and anxieties

From mummification to ‘sky burials’, human beings have always shown some form of obsession when it comes to the dead. Mortuary rituals are universal across cultures, but how the dead are dressed vary widely.

While expensive lined and cushioned mahogany or walnut caskets often used in modern Western burials, the Zoroastrians used to place corpses atop specially constructed Towers of Silence for the scavenging birds, said a Scroll.in report.

The Dani people of West Papua, New Guinea also had to cut off their own fingers after the death of a loved one. This seemingly severe and incomprehensible ritual applied to any woman related to the deceased, as well as any children.

For some cultures like those of the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea and the Wari people of Brazil, the best way to honor the dead is by eating them.

Sky Burial Image Source:Wikipedia Commons

For thousands of years, Tibetan Buddhists practice ritual dissection, or “Sky Burials” — the tradition of chopping up the dead into small pieces and giving the remains to animals, particularly birds. Sometimes, the body is also left intact.

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According to Scroll.in, the earliest evidence of burial comes from Upper Palaeolithic burial sites dating back thousands of years ago. The grave goods and other similar burial practices indicate at least rudimentary afterlife beliefs. Even now, veneration of the dead is one of the integral parts of religious practices all over the world.

Death is also central to Christianity. After all, the crucifix is an instrument of torture and execution. Christians also observe special days dedicated to death, such as Good Friday. Rather than celebrating the anniversaries of their births, most saints’ days fall on the dates of their deaths

The Psychology Of Rituals

“Funerals, I had decided, are for the living.” ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Studies show that we ritualise death for our own sake, to quell our own sorrows and anxieties. There is increasing evidence that rituals serve to regulate our emotional reactions. According to experiments conducted at the Harvard University, simple rituals, even those that are invented or made up can reduce people’s feeling of grief, said the Scroll.in report.

Rituals also serve other purposes and are indications of stress relief. Certain studies show that when people become more rigid and repetitive when put in stressful situations , they are in fact relieving stress and reducing anxiety. Rituals may also serve to stave off our own anxieties concerning mortality.

Furthermore, as rituals call for social gatherings, they create a comfortable atmosphere that binds people together over the loss of a loved one. Hence group rituals, particularly those involving synchronous behavior, also foster a sense of social cohesion that can help us to feel more physically formidable.

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According to Scroll.in, another purpose of ritualising death could be that it helps us to deal with the feelings of guilt associated with disposing of a corpse. When a process is formulated and followed for generations, the central focus is shifted from disposing the corpse to saying goodbye to the one we loved. By doing so, they cease to be people and become objects that we can dispose.

Despite the wide diversity in the traditions of disposing the dead or to bid a last goodbye, it seems that death rituals are meant to make us feel less helpless in the face of our grief and pain.

-prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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Showing Support to The Chanderi weavers Amid Lockdown

In tough times, it is difficult for weavers to sell their products, showcasing their work online can be immensely helpful

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Chanderi weavers
Lending support to Chanderi weavers in these times becomes immensely important. IANS

In tough times, it is difficult for weavers to sell their products and sustain their craft during these difficult times. Showcasing their work online can be immensely helpful. One needs understand that the lockdown has had a severe impact on artisans as it has severely affected their sales and production.

“With artisans and weavers having been hit badly because of the lockdown, Weaverstory a specialised online marketplace, has decided to give reasonable prices, so that customers can buy different products from across India and abroad too. This is helping the weavers sell their products to sustain during these difficult times. Every artisan or weaver is given a separate space to exhibit their products and this is the first time they are trying something like this,” said Nishant Malhotra co-founder of Weaverstory.

WeaverStory launched an “Authentic Chanderi Collection” which helps artisans to become self-reliant. Chanderi, from central India is one of the best-known handloom clusters, particularly famous for its sarees, made with a mix of silk and cotton.

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India is one of the best-known handloom clusters, particularly famous for its sarees, made with a mix of silk and cotton. Pixabay

“Most of them sustain themselves only by selling their products and what is really important is to sell their products on time. Hence, this is the only way to sell whatever they have produced in the past two months. We ensure that the money goes to the artisan’s account within three working days and provide financial support to them during the lockdown,” Malhotra added.

The chanderi saree is a handwoven variety from the traditional weavers of Madhya Pradesh. Woven predominantly in cotton and silk yarn, the material has a subtle sheer surface. The assortment has in store the variety of sarees, dupattas, suits in vibrant colours, royal blues, and red and mustards.

Also Read: Yoga: A scared gift, with Love from Hinduism and India to the World

There have been changes in the methodologies, equipment and even the compositions of yarns over the years, but there is a heritage attached with the skill associated with high quality weaving and products. The weavers from this area a have even received appreciation and royal patronage. WeaverStory has been focussing predominantly on the weaves, reviving designs from museums and traditional forms, and working with weavers themselves. (IANS)

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Article 30 Has Harmed the Constitutional Equality of Citizens: Vijayvargiya

Vijayvargiya believes that Article 30 has harmed the spirit of equality guaranteed in the Constitution

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Vijayvargiya
Vijayvargiya said that Article 30 has harmed the spirit of equality guaranteed in the Constitution. Wikimedia Commons

Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya has raised questions over Article 30 of the Indian Constitution which provides the minority community the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

Vijayvargiya said this Article has harmed the spirit of equality guaranteed in the Constitution.

Kailash vijayvargiya online
“When our country is a secular one, what is the need of Article 30.”, Vijayvargiya tweeted. Pixabay

Vijayvargiya tweeted: “Article 30 has harmed the constitutional equality of citizens. This Article allows the minorities to propagate their religion and education based on religion, which is not allowed to other religions. When our country is a secular one, what is the need of Article 30.”

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Article 30 says all minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.

“The State shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language,” Article 30 says.

Vijayvargiya’s statement can spark a new debate on the issue. (IANS)

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Don’t Lecture India; Look at Your Own Record

Many countries worldwide have a horrifying record regarding human rights

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Europeans have a horrifying record regarding human rights violations. Pixabay

By Maria Wirth

Europeans have a horrifying record regarding human rights violations. Germany is well known for an unprecedented, systematic holocaust of Jews and gypsies right in the middle of Europe only 80 years ago. Yet Britain, France, Portugal and others were as brutal with equal or even higher number of humans killed in their colonies. Their victims count many millions and many of them were Indians.

The Arabs, Turks and Mongols, too, have a horrifying record regarding human rights. The number of victims killed also goes into many millions, and many of them were Indians.

The Muslims invaded India already over thousand years ago and were as brutal as ISIS in our times. Unspeakable torture and beheadings were done on massive scale. Even the supposedly benign “Akbar the Great” slaughtered Hindus in huge numbers. The collective sacred threads of the Brahmins massacred by him is said to have weighed 200 kilogram. Can one even imagine such incredible injustice and brutality to civilians and priests? Thousands of temples were destroyed. Hindu women were sold into sex slavery. Hindus even had to open their mouth and receive gratefully the spittle by Muslims sitting on horses, and slaughtering cows was seen as “noblest deed” because it was so painful for Hindus, is recounted in “Legacy of Jihad” by Andrew Bostom.

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Hindu women were sold into sex slavery. Pixabay

The brutality experienced by Hindus was so horrendous that, even in independent India, they hardly dare to complain when they are subjected to cruel discrimination. It is painful to read comments whenever Hindus are killed or raped by Muslims: “This won’t make news, as the victim is only a Hindu”. It is so sad, but understandable after what they have gone through for over thousand years. They had no way to get justice; had to bear their suffering silently.

Guru Nanak cried out to the Supreme, and it is part of the Grant Sahib, “Having lifted Islam to its head, You have engulfed Hindustan in dread… Such cruelties they have inflicted and yet Your mercy remains unmoved….Oh Lord, these dogs have destroyed the diamond-like Hindustan.”

The British colonial masters were not less brutal. Their disdain for the natives was incredible. Winston Churchill is on record saying that he “hated Indians” and considered them a “beastly people with a beastly religion”. Celebrities like Charles Dickens wanted the Indian race ‘exterminated’ and considered them vile savages and Max Mueller wanted them all converted to Christianity.

Britain looted and reduced the formerly wealthiest country of the world to painful poverty, where during their rule over 25 million people starved to death, 3 million as late as in 1943 in Bengal.

The crimes of the British colonialists are, like those of the Muslim invaders, too numerous to list. They tied Indians to the mouth of canons and blew them up, hanged scores of them on trees, and even just after over one million Indian soldiers had helped Britain to be victorious in the First World War with many thousands sacrificing their lives, General Dyer gave orders to shoot at a peaceful gathering in Amritsar in 1919 where thousands died. An old coffee planter in Kodagu told me that even in the early 1950s there was a board in front of the club house in Madikeri. It read: “Dogs and Indians not allowed”.

Can anyone imagine the pain those Indian generations went through, having arrogant, often uncouth ruffians looting their land and despising them as dogs?

How could Europeans and Arabs be so cruel to other human beings? The reason is that they saw themselves as superior and others not quite as human.

Religion played a big role in making them feel superior. Both Christianity and Islam teach their members that only their religion is true and that the Creator will reward them with eternal heaven, but will severely punish all those who do not follow their ‘true’ religion. If God himself will torture them eternally in hellfire, why should his followers be good to them? Wouldn’t it mean siding with God’s enemies and betraying Him?

But on what basis do they consider only their religion as true and themselves as superior? The reason is that the respective founder of their religion allegedly said so. No other reason exists and no proof. On this flimsy basis, Christians and Muslims treated other human beings most inhumanly, believing they are destined for hell while they themselves are God’s favorites and will go to heaven. This brainwashing in the name of religion happens even in our times and its effect is still not questioned and analysed.

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Christians and Muslims treated other human beings most inhumanly. Pixabay

Yet today, neither white Christians, nor Arab or Turkish Muslims are constantly reminded of those terrible crimes of their forefathers. “The present generation must not be held accountable for the sins of their fathers”, is however not applied to Hindus and especially not to Brahmins. Media keeps hitting out at them as if they had been the worst violators of human rights in the past. Hinduism is portrayed as the villain due to the “horrific and oppressive” caste system.

Anyone, who knows a little about history, knows that this is false and malicious. The structure of Hindu society into four varnas or categories is mentioned in the Vedas and depends on one’s aptitude and profession – Brahmins, who memorise and teach the Vedas, Kshatriyas, who administer and defend society, Vaishyas who supply the society with goods and Shudras, who are the service sector. The varnas are not fixed by birth in texts like Bhagavad Gita or Manusmriti. But the British themselves cemented ‘castes’ (a Portuguese word) in their census and then turned around and accused Hindus of their birth-based, fixed caste system.

There was however one more category which the whole world has been told about and which is used to the hilt to despise Hinduism. They were the untouchables who do unclean work, like handling dead animals, cleaning sewers, etc. The fact that other varnas avoided touching them is still made a huge issue of in the West. In fact it is portrayed, as if this practice made Hindus the greatest violators of human rights and makes the millions tortured and killed by Christians and Muslims pale in comparison.

Yet there is no proof that even one of those untouchables has been killed for doing unclean work. Higher castes may indeed have looked down or still look down on those whose job involves dirt, which is unfortunately a human trait in all societies. It has nothing to do with Hinduism. Most people are aware that such work also needs to be done.

There is in all likelihood another angle regarding “untouchability”, which the British did not realize: Ayurveda knew already 3000 years ago that invisible germs can cause serious illness and those dealing with cadavers and dirt are more likely to carry and spread those. However, the British didn’t know about this fact till only some 150 years ago, when Louis Pasteur claimed that germs cause sickness. (By the way, Google describes this discovery as “crowning achievement of the French scientist”, and avoids mentioning India’s ancient Ayurveda).

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Higher castes may indeed have looked down or still look down on those whose job involves dirt, which is unfortunately a human trait in all societies. Pixabay

Now in today’s time of “social distancing” due to the Corona Virus, we know that not touching others is a precaution to prevent potential infection and has nothing to do with discrimination. The British could have given Hindus the benefit of doubt that they avoided physical contact with certain people due to caution. But since the British didn’t have the advanced knowledge about harmful germs they could not see the possible reason behind it.

Since Independence, the caste system is officially abolished and discrimination against lower castes is a non-bailable offense. Yet the West still makes a huge issue of the caste system and untouchables. Why? Was this the greatest crime the British could find against the “natives” and therefore exaggerated it tremendously?

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This is not to say that people of higher castes didn’t or don’t look down on lower castes, but the demonization of Brahmins is most unwarranted, as Brahmins are least likely to harbour hatred for others due to their strict rules for sadhana which requires them to keep a very high standard of mental and physical purity.  Yet evangelicals, NGOs, international media, Muslim organisations, they all are after them and Hindus in general. They attack them for “atrocities” which never even happened, while the unspeakable atrocities, which were perpetrated upon them, are ignored. It’s a classic case of noticing the speck in the brother’s eye, but not the beam of wood in one’s own eye.

They got away with it for too long, because Hindus didn’t react. The meekness of Hindus was legendary. They were even called cowards. Yet in recent time, Hindus are becoming more assertive. They realize that the constant attacks on them are malicious, and that they are being fooled in the name of secularism because neither Christians nor Muslims can be secular. They are by nature communal because they need to make their community spread all over the world.

It is time to call out this blatant insincerity. When a head of state, like Imran Khan, accuses the Modi government in a tweet of “moving towards Hindu Rashtra with its Hindutva Supremacist, fascist ideology”, he better looks at his own country and his own ideology. A Hindu Rashtra with its inclusiveness and freedom are any time better than the exclusive, supremacist ideologies of Islam and Christianity, which force human beings into a strait-jacket of blind belief and several Muslim states threaten even today those who want to get out with death sentence.