Hindu Funeral Traditions & Etiquette

What to expect at a Hindu funeral.

Reincarnation is central to the Hindu faith and funerals are meant to help the deceased through the transition. Immediately after the death of a loved one, the family has a short funeral or visitation in the family home (similar to a wake in Western culture).

Most Hindu funerals have three parts:

  1. A wake or funeral in the family’s home immediately upon death
  2. A cremation ceremony at the cremation site
  3. A ceremony to help the soul of the deceased enter the next world

The funeral typically lasts about 30 minutes. Visitors should view the body (without touching), offer condolences to the family and sit quietly. A Hindu priest will lead prayers and chants. Family members may also share memories and tributes about their loved one. Afterward, attendees are invited to pass the casket and sprinkle flower petals over the deceased.

Hindus prioritize a positive environment to help with the journey of the deceased. Excessive displays of emotion are discouraged.

What to wear.

Unlike in other faith traditions, you should never wear black at a Hindu funeral. Traditionally, people wear white clothing that covers the knees and arms. Today, people will either wear traditional garb or modern clothing. If you aren’t sure what to wear, ask the funeral coordinator. If you attend any form of ceremony in a Hindu temple, you’ll be asked to remove your shoes before entering their sacred room of prayer. It’s appropriate to wear sandals or shoes without socks.

Appropriate gifts.

Because Hindus generally refrain from cooking during the mourning period, it is customary to express condolences by sending food or fruit baskets. Don’t bring or order flowers to the funeral unless instructed otherwise.

Employer note:

Memorial service. A service to honor a loved one’s life usually occurs one year after death. Acknowledge the one-year anniversary with your employee.

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Additional Resources

Traditions can vary from family to family. Check with the family or funeral coordinator for guidance.



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