HINDU FUNERALKATHMANDU, NEPAL Male kinsmen carry the body of a man who died that morning to his cremation pyre. His son, seen in the back with the white scarf over his head, is the karta, the chief "doer" of the funeral rites for his father. He will light the fire with a torch lighted from a flame brought from the dead man's home.
PUJATHE GANGES AT RISHIKESH • The Ganges River is the goddess, Ganga, who is worshipped morning and evening with fire. Here, at dusk, Brahmans wave arati--fire lamps--to the river goddess while hundreds of worshippers sing "Om Jai Gange Mata" -- "Hail to Mother Ganges."
CREMATIONAT THE GANGES • Every Hindu longs to die on the banks of the Ganges River so that their body can be cremated and the ashes deposited in the river. Here, at the edge of the river in the city of Patna, there are constant fires burning.
The time it takes to burn the corpse on the pyre depends upon the deceased's sins. The more sinful a person has been, the longer time the cremation rite takes. This is also perceived as a painstaking and horrifying experience for the deceased.
Materiality is a prison which encapsulates the soul in non-permanent states of beings. The aim is salvation and release from samsara - the round of birth and death. This ultimate goal has major implications for the living. Nevertheless, the aim is hardly possible to achieve in this or any other life. According to orthodox and scriptural Hinduism and Buddhism an individual soul may take 8 million materialized bodies.
Sin is manifested in the flesh, but not solely. It is the soul that finally will be released and attain the divine sphere, and the soul has to be pure when entering Heaven.