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B.3 Ch. 8: Idolaters and Cremation

B.3 Ch. 7: Idolaters and Men After Death Page of 417 B.3 Ch. 9: Women Burning Themselves with Their Deceased Husbands Text size:minus plus Restore normal size   Mail page  Print this page
chap, vii         CREMATION OF THE DEAD
161
it to be partly demolished, and found in fact great riches, with which he supported his army, consisting of more than 30,000 men. It is impossible to disabuse these idolaters of their errors, because they will not listen to reason, and they entirely subordinate their own judgement to their ancient customs, the principal of which is to burn the bodies of the deceased.
CHAPTER VIII
Concerning the Idolaters custom of burning the bodies of the deceased.
The custom among the Gentiles of burning bodies after death is very ancient; they generally burn them on the banks of rivers, where they wash the bodies of the deceased to complete the cleansing of those sins from which they have not been purified during life. This superstition goes to such extremes that very often sick persons, when on the point of death, are carried to the margin of a river or tank, and their feet are placed in the water. According as nature fails the body is pushed forwards, and at last it is held by the chin only, so that at the moment when the spirit departs and leaves the body, both the one and the other can be purged of all defilement by plunging the body wholly into the water, after which it is burned in the same place, which is always close to some pagoda.1 There are people who make it their business to collect wood, and there is a fixed rate of payment for their trouble.2 When an idolater is dead, all those of his caste or tribe who are in the place assemble at the house of the deceased, and the body having been placed on a litter covered by some fine cloth, according to the station of the deceased and the property which he-has left, they accompany it to the place where it is to be burnt, following the litter, which is carried on the shoulders of those appointed for that
1  For the custom in Bengal see Ward, The Hindoos, 2nd ed., i. 192, and Bernier, 315.
2  For the extortions of the Doms at Benares, who provide fuel for the funeral pyre, see Crooke, Tribes and Castes, North-West Provinces and Owdh, ii. 329.
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B.3 Ch. 7: Idolaters and Men After Death Page of 417 B.3 Ch. 9: Women Burning Themselves with Their Deceased Husbands
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