There have always been many strange notions about dead souls, and different religions have their own beliefs about them. While some of these beliefs are frightening, some are funny, and others are plain weird. The fear of death and what comes after it is real for many people. In Hinduism, there are some interesting beliefs about dead souls. Let’s have a look at them.
The dead come back as crows
Crow feeding is an annual ritual among Hindus. On the ancestor’s death anniversary, crows are fed the favorite foods of the dead ancestors, as it is believed that the dead take the form of crows and visit their homes. Supposedly, they eat the food, bless their loved ones, and return to their heavenly abode.
According to Hindu beliefs, a person has seven re-births. Sometimes, the person may be born as a bird or animal due to the sins they committed in their earthly life. All the things that occurred in each birth are also stored in their memory, but few are able to remember them. Some believe that people who do not treat sacred animals like the cow and the horse kindly will be reborn as animals.
The existence of ghosts
Hindus believe that the dead become ghosts. Those who commit cruel deeds or take their own lives are believed to wander on earth in the form of ghosts until they are punished. There are two categories of ghosts. The “good ghosts” are spirits that repent the evil things they did on earth and are ready for their punishment. Such ghosts are believed to help people on earth. They may be found in religious places, places where funeral rituals are performed, and in the homes of relatives.
The ‘evil ghosts” are spirits that are unrepentant and unwilling to receive their punishment. Such ghosts will continue to torment people on earth. They are found in big trees, abandoned or ruined buildings, and graveyards.
Re-union with dead relatives
Hindus believe that dead people will unite with their father and grandfather, provided proper rituals are done by the children of the deceased. After the house is cleaned, a priest performs the funeral ceremony on the 31st day after the death. The priest makes a big rice ball or pinda. This represents the dead soul. Three small pindas are also made, which represent the souls of the father, the great grandfather, and the grandfather of the dead person.
To reunite the deceased with the ancestors, the large pinda will be cut into 3 small pieces and joined with the small pindas. Once the pindas are eaten by a crow, fish, or a cow, the ritual becomes complete. This ritual happens on the 31st day after the death or the 11th day after the cremation. When this ritual is completed, the impurity in the house of the deceased supposedly ends.
Rebirth in the same family
Hindu belief has it that a person’s state of mind during death decides whether the person will go to heaven or be reborn. Those who have fulfilled their earthly responsibilities, resolved their conflicts, etc., will go to heaven. Those who died in accidents or due to unexpected diseases will be reborn as soon as possible. In the case of unexpected deaths, the dead soul may be reborn in the same family, provided the rituals are done correctly. Hence, some of the rituals for sending the dead soul to heaven are not done in such cases.
Placement in the afterlife
The time of death. as well as the environment, during death will decide where the deceased will be after death. Dying on certain auspicious days takes the person straight to heaven. Chanting Mantras, the names of Hindu gods, and Vedas are the best things to be done at the time of death. When a person dies on a festival day or when a Pooja is being performed at home, they will go to heaven, irrespective of their deeds on earth.
There are also many heavens. According to the environment of death, they will go to the respective heaven. For example, those who died in battle fields and wars will go to the warrior heaven.
Dead souls with merit
In the Vedic age, there were rituals for killing enemies, offering human sacrifices, etc. Human sacrifice was done to appease God’s anger, attaining magical powers, etc. A person who is ready to become a human sacrifice to God is regarded as a ‘bhakta’ or devotee, and his family is seen as ‘privileged’ or ‘meritorious’. The victim will obtain a good place in heaven or a royal birth in the next life.
Dead remain in the tomb or place of death
Dead people dwell in their place of death or the burial place or cremation ground until the sacraments are done. Supposedly, dead souls are bound by the feelings, emotions, and affections of their worldly relationships. They can leave the world only when rituals are performed to liberate them.
Hindus burn dead bodies instead of burying them, as they feel it enables the soul to break its association with the body.
Disposing of dead bodies in the Ganga river
The Ganga is a sacred river and connects heaven and earth. It is believed that if the half-burnt body of a dead person is flung into this river, their soul will reach heaven, irrespective of their deeds on earth, circumstances, and time of death. This has led to the pollution of the river. But people bathe in it, and even drink the river water, as it is considered sacred.
Worshipping the dead
Dead ancestors should be worshipped as they can protect us. It is believed that our dead ancestors and relatives appear in dreams and live with us if we honor and worship them. All the rituals we do for the dead keep them connected with us.
Hindus are known to keep the photos of the dead along with the gods’ idols and worship them daily. They decorate the photos with flowers and consider the dead as gods. On the death day of the ancestor, they cook their favorite foods and place them before the photo. They perform rituals and offer food to crows who represent the dead ancestors. This is believed to appease the ancestors.