I asked a learned friend the question (‘According to the Jain faith why should we walk around the coffin?’) because my grandfather passed away recently. This made me think about the rituals that are in place and the fact that the generation that will become ‘the elders’ mostly, do not have a clue about what is done or why it is done! Thus it was time to ask some questions.

It can be a stressful and emotional time. A time when some people don’t see the big deal with things like this. When others don’t want anything to go ‘wrong’. Some will not want to do anything wrong through fear that the soul will not be at peace and so on. Thus it is important to know and be accurate about what to do and how to do it.

I have asked quite a few questions surrounding death and the Jain rituals that follow.

Why do we do ferra around the coffin or why should we NOT do this?

Jains and those in the vedic culture use this in social events. The number four is associated with the four efforts which a human being is supposed to make: Dharma, Artha, Kama, and Moksha. When the wedding ceremony is performed, also these four circumambulations around the five elements, including fire, are performed.

In the funeral procedure, the circumambulations are performed with a clay pot full of water on the right shoulder of the next of kin. On starting, a hole is made in the clay pot so whilst the male is going around, the water flows behind him. This symbolises the departure of the spirit/consciousness from the body/pot. At the end of the fourth round, the pot is thrown to the ground so that it breaks and it is supposed to indicate to the ‘hovering’ soul that there is no body for it to return to and that it should proceed on its way to the upper regions.

Another learned friend of mine wrote: –

Circumambulation around the coffin by near and dear ones was and is still in vogue to allow close family members to pay respect to the departed soul. Nowadays the practice has spread and every uncle, tom and cobbly joins in.

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