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Hindu Funerals in the United States

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A funeral is not something you wish to encounter when you are in a foreign country but unfortunately there may come a time when a close family or friend may pass on and you have to help with the last rites. Unfortunately one of my friend's wife passed away earlier this year after a prolonged fight with cancer. When my father passed away in India a few years ago, neighbors, friends and family helped make the arrangements and I never knew what they had done. This time it was my turn to help and I found little help on the Internet so I thought I would share my experiences with everyone.

Overall, you need to look at the following three main things

  1. Arrangements with a Funeral Home
  2. Priest for the Ceremony
  3. Items for the Pooja

Arrangements with a Funeral Home

If you live in a metropolitan area such as Dallas, Chicago, New York-New Jersey etc, then you are fortunate enough to find a Hindu temple that can help you with some good information. Hindu temples in the US do not have a crematorium but there are many funeral homes that do. If you call the Hindu temple, they will recommend a few that they have worked with in the past. If you do not have a local temple, you can call the funeral homes from the Yellow pages and ask them if they have a crematorium and if they would allow a Hindu funeral to take place at their premises. We called the Hindu temple and they told us the name of the most commonly used one.


Priest for the Ceremony

This is probably the most difficult part of the arrangements because not all priests do funeral services. If you live in a big metro, you are likely to find someone at the temple who can help. If you live in a smaller town, you may have to drive to a bigger city and get a priest or may even have to fly someone in. I did not have that dilemma because we have a big temple in our city. The priest said he is not a funeral expert but can perform the last rites to the best of his abilities. My friend had no issues and so we went with this priest.


Items for the Pooja

Once you have selected your priest, he will give you the list of Pooja items needed for the ceremony. It includes the standard things you would expect like Rice, Haldi, Kumkum, coconuts, flowers, diyas etc but there are some special things that maybe hard to get like Ganga Jal and Tulsi. We got Ganga Jal but were not able to get Tulsi at any of the grocery stores. Luckily another friend of ours had a Tulsi plant and I got some. The priest later told me that even Tulsi seeds (which may be available more easily) would have sufficed.


It was a stressful time making the arrangements but we were able to get the ceremony done in the best and most traditional manner that we could under the circumstances. It was a duty I had to fulfill.

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