I asked a learned friend the question (‘According to the Jain faith, why should funerals only be attended by males?’) 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 some people say women shouldn’t attend funerals? Why did they not attend traditionally?

Traditionally, a funeral involved use of deadwood and cow dung. Hence people were likely to become ‘dirty’ from the handling and smoke which covered the heads and clothing of all present.

As stated above, the funeral was a very unpleasant and messy affair and the tradition of taking bath immediately would not suit females. Also, the way in which the funeral pyre behaved was very uncertain and manipulations were required to ensure that the fire consumed the body in its totality. Hence it was not for the faint-hearted.

In this country, many of the traditional points may not apply. However, there is nothing to be gained by attending the funeral by the women. It is likely to cause trauma from memories. Also, because of limitation of space, it is advisable for women not to go to funerals. Traditionally, all the women stayed at home to look after the females in the family and to help cleaning the place thoroughly, cooking for those who would come home for chhas rotla. All these had a contextual meaning to the times.

Another learned friend of mine wrote: –

This exclusion is nothing but MCP attitude of the man-folk. The other rational reason may be that fairer gender can be very emotional and the environment of the crematorium is not conducive to their presence. In India and East Africa widows were treated more harshly at home in that they were forced by the family elders to smash her bangles, (chudlo), change into a complete white or red attire and as if this was not enough, their presence at their own children’s’ wedding was considered inauspicious. She was isolated and pitied upon in an inhuman fashion.

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