When a person is about to die, he is often removed from
the cot and put onto the floor, his feet turned towards the north. Before
doing so, some people smear the floor with dung paste and spread darab
grass over it. (There is a common belief that a person who dies
on his cot becomes a ghost). Thereafter, the ceremony of Deeva Batti is
performed. A lamp made from flour dough is lighted and put near the head
or on the right palm and then something is given in charity on his behalf.
A cow given away at this time is considered the best form of charity among
the Hindus, for it is believed that on his way to the other world, the
dead man has to cross a wide river. It is believed that he can do it easily
if he holds on to the tail of the 'Vaitarani', that is, the cow given
in charity. The cow and other articles or money given in charity are made
over to the Brahmins or the family priest. Those who cannot afford to
give a cow, give away some food grains and money.
Among the Hindus when a person is on the death-bed,
someone recites verses from the Geeta; the Sikhs offer strength to the
departing soul by reading Sukhmani-the psalm of peace.
When actual death takes place, the women of the house
sit around the dead person and lament loudly. Men spread a cover in the
courtyard and sit silently, while friends, neighbours and relatives come
in, to condole. Among some Hindus, the sons and some other male relatives
of the deceased have their heads shaved off. The widow of the deceased
takes off all her jewellery and if she happens to be young and is still
wearing the wedding bangles, these are broken.
Certain rites are performed before the body of
the deceased is taken for cremation. His body is rubbed with curds, washed
and wrapped in a shroud. If the deceased happens to be woman and if her
husband is alive, some jewellery is put on her body and vermilion applied
in the parting of her hair. Her nose-ring is also not removed. A woman
who dies thus, is considered lucky and is believed to go to heaven.
When an old person dies after living a full span of
life, his Baban (viman or bier) is made in the shape of a boat decorated
with balloons and buntings and strips of golden lace. His funeral procession
is often accompanied by bands; conches are blown and gongs are struck.
Some coins, dry fruits and other edibles are thrown over the bier. These
are collected and kept by the poor and considered very prized possessions.
It is believed that a person who keeps such articles as souvenirs or eats
them also lives to be as old.
A close relation of the deceased grinds in a grindstone
seven grains, viz., wheat, gram, barley, maize, moth, lintels and rice.
Some grind only rice, sesame and barley. A Brahmin makes a pind out of
this flour to be offered in the name of the dead. Before the bier is lifted
to be taken out of the house, the widow, children and daughters-in-law
of the deceased touch his feet. Thereafter, flour close relatives lift
it on their shoulders and walk towards the cremation ground. The body
is always taken out of the house feet first. The Sikhs sing hymns on the
way. Relatives of the deceased and mourners help the carriers of the bier
and share the burden with them. This is called moda dena (offering the
shoulder). This gesture has a great religious significance. If the deceased
has a grandson, he follows the bier with a Chauri (whisk), fanning the
corpse. On the way to the cremation ground a halt called adhmarg (half
way ) is made. Here a pitcher full of water is broken by the eldest son
near the corpse's head. The widow and other female relatives of the deceased
bow down to the corpse and touch his feet again.