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Death....The final journey!!

In India, the concept of life after death is taken very literally. It is often said that the deeds of one’s life determine their life after death. The idea of death and afterlife evolved during the Aryan civilization and the researchers idealized this custom and culture into Hinduism. Hence, when someone dies the loved ones leave no stone unturned in performing the various rituals of Antima Sanskar, which we will discuss about in this blog.

  • Approaching death: Hindus believe that the near to dying person should be taken home where he is close to his loved ones because according to Hindu mythology, prolonging the illness is against the karma. A person should die happily and not stretch life by artificial methods. The person is laid on the floor with his head facing in the east direction and with a lamp lit near his body to spread aroma. The priest chants mantras from the Rig Veda and sings hymns to create a pious environment. If the dying person seems to be unconscious, a family member chants “Aum Namo Narayana” or “Aum Namo Sivaya” in the right ear to calm the soul.
  • The moment of death: The dead body is placed on the ground in the hallway with the head facing in the south direction. Placing the body on the floor signifies that the body returns Mother Earth, where it was initially created. The priest chants Vedic hymns and puts a few drops of milk or holy water (River Ganges) into the mouth and applies holy ash or sandalwood paste on the forehead to release the soul from the body. The thumbs and toes are tied together respectively and a white cloth is tied below the chin and over the head of the dead body.
  • The (Homa) Fire Ritual: This ritual involves creating a fire place under a shelter or inside the house. The priest performs the rite in the presence of family members whereby they honour nine brass Kumbhas (water pots) and one clay pot. The eldest son perform leads this rite in case of the father’s death and the youngest son preforms in the case of mother’s death. He is regarded as a chief mourner or karta.
  • Preparation of the dead body: The body is covered with white cloth and taken to homa fire where the eldest son or the chief mourner encircles around the dead body with a burning wooden stick in hand. The body is then offered rice puffs for better nourishment in his next life.

  • Cremation: In Hinduism, only men are allowed to attend the cremation ceremony (funeral). The body is placed on wooden stacks like structure (pyre) and the chief mourner takes three rounds in the anti-clockwise direction. He carries a clay pot filled with water on his shoulder making holes after each round to release water from the pot. This signifies that the soul of the deceased person is leaving into a new world with a whole new life.

 

  • Bone-Gathering Ceremony: After one day from the cremation ceremony, men in the family return to collect the remains of the body. The remains which include ashes and small pieces of bones are collected in a small clay pot covered by a red cloth and water is sprinkled on the ash to settle all the impurities and dead body’s remains into the Earth (the creator). As per the last wish of the dead person, the ashes are carried to the river Ganges or any other holy river or ocean along with flowers.

  • First Memorial: This ritual is usually organized on the third, fifth, seventh, ninth or thirteenth day of the death, where relatives and friends come to give condolences and eat deceased person’s favorite foods. A photo is placed in the centre of the hallway where people offer flowers and put garlands and a portion of food is offered too. This ritual varies from family to family. Some people offer pinda (rice balls) for nine days to the priests or others combine it into a one day ceremony.
  • One Month Memorial: This rite is performed to purify the home from the spirit of the deceased person. The priest performs the Sapindikarana ceremony in which 3 small pinda (rice balls) are made representing father, grandfather and great-grandfather; this shows that Hindu rituals revolve around the family tree. One large pinda is also made which is then cut into three pieces to join the three small pindas representing the males in the family. This ritual unites the deceaseds’ soul with the ancestors because Hindus believe in reincarnation.

Each Hindu family in India performs the rituals mentioned above in order to show their respect for the deceased. The concept of “Rest in Peace” is exercised by performing these rituals in the Hindu society.

MYTHICAL TWINS!

Hey guys! So! To make our last blog post relatable and memorable to us, we decided on the topic of twins in mythology (Hurrayyyy!). Even though we are twins ourselves, we still find it fascinating when we come across another set of twins but perhaps, not as much a non-twin individual would (we might be wrong here). Anyway, back to the topic, we really wanted to do something fun and something that was particularly closer to us both so we thought why not twins? and here we are. In class, we already learnt about the story of the orphaned twins Romulus and Remus, who were raised in the wilderness and discovered the magnificent city of Rome. So for today, we will be exploring more on other twins in ancient mythology and what essentially made their story so interesting and famous. There are many different versions of every story so keep that in mind!

Heracles and Iphicles (Hercules and Iphecules)

Heracles (or Hercules) and Iphicles were twin brothers. Heracles was believed to be the son of Greek god, Zeus and thus, his superpowers. Iphicles on the other hand, was the son of Amphitryon and Alcmene (their mom) who were both mortals so he did not have any of his brother’s superpowers. This may perhaps explained why Heracles was more famous and why many of you did not know that he had a twin brother (AM I RIGHT?!). What essentially made people believe that Heracles was the son of Zeus is the story of when the twin brothers were infants. Apparently, when Hera, third lawful wife of Zeus, knew that he cheated on her and heard about the twins, she got jealous and sent two serpents down to kill them. While Iphicles screamed and cried when he saw the serpents, Heracles on the other hand, choked the serpents by their throats and killed them.

While we do not know much about Iphicles, what we do know is that he joined his brother on many adventures and eventually died battling the Moliones (another pair of twins, Eurytus and Cteatus, sons of Poseidon and Molione) with Heracles. In Greek mythology, Heracles was described as a demigod who grew up to become a strong warrior and a hero. He was famous for accomplishing the “twelve labors” that made him immortal. Additionally, he also played a big role in the victory of the Olympians against the Giants.(Read more about that here: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/giants.html)

Apollo and Artemis

In Greek mythology, Apollo was the God of the sun, music and prophecy, and Artemis was the Virgin Goddess of the moon, childbirth, hunt, and nature.

The pair Apollo and Artemis was the son and daughter of Zeus (the King of the Gods) and his favorite lover, Leto (a Titan goddess). The birth story of the twins was not an easy one because Heta (the legitimate wife of Zeus) was envious and hated Leto despite the fact that the pregnancy happened before her marriage with Zeus. When Heta heard about the pregnancy, she made sure to stir up all sorts of trouble for Leto and even chased her out of Olympus. Heta also prohibited everyone in Greece from providing help and refuge to Leto. She went as far as to prevent her own daughter Eileithyia (the goddess of childbirth) from aiding Leto during childbirth. Even more outrageous, she had a large serpent called Python hunt down Leto WHILE SHE WAS PREGNANT!!! What a cruel woman!!

Leto eventually settled on an island called Delos. Leto was miserable and was in immense pain for nine days before finally giving birth to Artemis on the tenth day at a nearby pond. Soon after, Artemis assisted her mother in the delivery of her twin brother, Apollo. Hence, Artemis also became known as the new goddess of childbirth. AND! After only FOUR DAYS following their birth, the young and strong Apollo avenged his mother’s pain by killing Python. (YASSSSS!)

Yama and Yami

All direct quotes came from only one source linked in the above heading

Yama and Yami were the son and daughter of Surya (the Sun God) and Sanjna (meaning Conscience). The story goes that Yama and Yami were the first mortals on Earth. Like the story of Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis, they were also “born into a garden of earthly delights.” Their love for one another prospered as they grew. While Yama’s love for Yami was always platonic and brotherly, Yami wanted more. Yami was devastated by her brother’s rejection and distanced herself away from him.

When she came back later on, she found Yama lying motionless underneath a tree. She called out his name and shook him but he never woke up. The understanding that she was now the only human left on this world made her absolutely heartbroken and miserable. She cried so much that her tears became “a river (the Yamuna), which began to flood the earth.”

The gods wanted to help her but she would continuously say: “But Yama just died today! Yama died today!” The gods then realized that Yami’s nonstop grief and mourning was due to the fact that she lived in “a perpetual interval of time.” There was no yesterday or tomorrow. Hence, this was how night was created as the gods combined their powers to make the sun set below the western horizon and rise above the eastern horizon.

Then, Yami slept through the night for the first time ever and woke up and said: “Why, Yama must have died yesterday!” Therefore, as time passed, her sadness slowly diminished and she became prudent from her acknowledgment of her hardship and her understanding of what it means to be a human.

For Yama, because he was the first human to die and to “discover the ineffable secrets of life, death, and the cosmic laws that govern existence.” There, he became the God of Death, with a secondary title of Dharmaraja, which means “the ‘King of Dharma’ or righteousness.”

Hunahpu and Xbalanque (The Hero Twins)

The Hero Twins, known as Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are popular Mayan demigods. Their story came from Mayan ancient sacred text, the Popol Vuh otherwise known as “The Book of Council”.

To tell the birth story of the Hero Twins, we must first look at their father, One Hunahpu who happened to also have a twin brother, Seven Hunahpu. They were described as knowledgeable and good by nature. One thing that they most enjoyed doing was playing ball and this somehow angered the Death Lords of Xibalba (Mayan underworld). They were thus, summoned to Xibalba, where they were put to many trials and was eventually deceived by the lords and they died in sacrifice. The head of One Hunahpu magically appeared on a tree, which was then touched by Xquic, a goddess of Xibalba and she was pregnant with the Hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque.

Just like their father, the Hero Twins also enjoyed playing ball and they were great players. However, they made a lot of noise and this angered the Lords of Xibalba who called them to the Underworld to play a ball game. The Twins similarly went through the trials and they passed them all because they knew the story of their father and uncle. The Death Lords again tried to trick them but they did not fall into the trap. However, they did let the Death Lords kill them because they knew they had to die to essentially become divine. After they returned, the Hero Twins possessed a supernatural power that allows them to bring any living thing back to life when they wish to do so.  Upon hearing this news, the Death Lords eagerly asked the boys to kill them and bring them back to life but unfortunately for them, the Hero Twins knew better and they did not resurrect the Death Lords. Ultimately, the sky gods made the Hero Twins become the rulers of the Earth; they turned into the Sun and the Moon.

The video below tells another version of the story with beautiful artworks. Do check it out if you have time :)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb5GKmEcJcw[/embed]

 

Thank you for reading and we hope you've enjoyed reading about twins! Farewell!!! :D