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A funeral-in-a-box kit for Hindu final rites

an array of items to be found in the Sarvapooja kits for Hindu funeral rites

Dried cow dung, holy water, sandalwood and incense are among the components of an unusual funeral-in-a-box kit being sold online.

Indian entrepreneur Nitesh Mehta says his SarvaPooja funeral kits contain the 38 essential items needed for sacred Hindu final rites – and are an ideal solution for bereaved urban professionals with busy lifestyles, or people living overseas.

He says the SarvaPooja boxes make things a little easier for people to source the ritual items necessary to prepare someone’s body for their funeral – saving them from shopping around at a distressing time.

Together with his cousin Hiten Dhruv, a former banker, Nitesh was inspired to create the kits after struggling to source items for a friend’s funeral – the pair spent an entire evening sourcing Gangajal, holy water from the Ganges.

Hindu cremations typically need to take place before sunset on the day that the person has died. This, says Nitesh, only gives people just a short window of time to source sacred items – including Ganges water – to prepare their loved one’s body.

savapooja funeral kitsThe Sarvapooja funeral kits come wrapped in a piece of woven bamboo, which doubles as a stretcher. Picture: SarvaPooja.com

Their one-stop solution, which costs around £30, has been causing a stir among some traditional shopkeepers in India. Often located near crematoria, many specialise in supplies for Hindu funerals including earthen pots and lamps, nada chhadi (sacred thread) and ghee (clarified butter).

However Nitesh, a former IT hardware designer who spent 15 years working in the U.S., says the funerals-in-a-box are a practical solution for many people – and is convinced they could be a valuable resource for people living overseas.

He is reaching out to funeral homes and places of worship in the UK, with the kits already available online to ship to people who may be thinking ahead about their funeral wishes.

Nitesh says the kits are also suitable for Jain and Sikh faiths, and there are plans to offer a similar kit for Muslim funerals.

He said: “We are in the process of identifying organisations who would be interested in providing this service to communities in the UK and do not expect any major changes to the ingredients of our kit for border customs.”

Final rites: preparing a loved one’s body for a Hindu funeral

an oil lampStock image via Bigstock

Before someone is cremated, their body is washed and wrapped in a white cotton cloth. The shroud is then smeared with sandalwood paste and decorated with flower garlands.

It’s carried on a bamboo stretcher to the funeral pyre which is traditionally made up of wood, mango leaves and camphor.

Usually the eldest son (or a close male relative) carries out the final rites. Before the pyre is lit, the body is anointed with ghee – a clarified butter – and a priest recites mantras.

The son or male relative encircles the pyre seven times while holding a flaming torch, which is then used to light the funeral pyre.

The kit features a collection of items are crucial in conducting a traditional Hindu funeral ceremony - including camphor, vibhuti (dried ash made of dried wood), betel nut, black sesame seeds and gaumutra (cow urine).

The final rites kit also includes practical items such as a ready-to-assemble bamboo stretcher to carry the dead person to the cremation site, a bamboo tripod, white cloth, ropes, a blade and a matchbox.

SarvaPooja funeral kits – what’s in the box?

Sarvapooja funeral box for Hindu funeral ritesPicture: Sarvapooja.com

  • Self-assembly bamboo stretcher
  • Tripod
  • Shawl
  • White cloth to shroud the person’s body
  • Mat
  • Flower garland
  • Two clay pots for water
  • Diya (oil lamp)
  • Camphor
  • Incense sticks
  • Cotton piece
  • Cotton batti
  • Vibhuti (sacred wood ash)
  • Cow urine (sprinkled in cleansing ritual)
  • Perfume
  • Rose water
  • Ganjaal (holy water from the Ganges)
  • Honey
  • Janoi (sacred thread)
  • Nada chhadi (holy red thread)
  • Black Tal (black sesame seeds)
  • Jav (barley)
  • Matchbox
  • Rope
  • White thread
  • White abil (a powder made from crushed herbs and flowers often used for Hindu pujas)
  • Black abil (a spice)
  • Kumkum (a red powder made from dried turmeric and slaked lime)
  • Gulaal (coloured powders made from natural dyes)
  • Haldi (turmeric)
  • Cow dung (burned on the pyre)
  • Chandan powder (sandalwood powder)
  • Chandan lakdi (sandalwood)
  • Kurmure (puffed rice)
  • Betel nut
  • Blade