I asked a learned friend the question (‘According to the Jain faith, why are incense sticks placed in 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 place incense sticks in the coffin?

In traditional wood pyres, there was bound to be offending smell from the burning of the flesh. Hence certain good smelling ingredients were put in the fire. Also ghee was used with sesame seed which helped both in speeding up the process as well as diluting the foul smell. The tradition is symbolised by placing incense sticks in the coffin. It is not needed for funerals taking place in this country.

Another learned friend of mine wrote: –

The placing of incense was perhaps justified in the olden days to suppress the smell of the burning flesh. Some people insist on putting a tulsi leaf in the mouth of the deceased and place a small spoonful of Ganges water in their mouth. Others insist that 4 ladoos and 4 coconuts should be placed inside the coffin despite the potential danger of the coconuts exploding within the coffin.

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