The Hindu marriage ceremony is lengthy and complicated. The kernel of
the rite is the couples threefold ritual of the sacred domestic fire and
their taking seven steps with their garments knotted together. Polygamy is
permitted but is not looked on with favor in most castes except when the first
marriage does not produce living male children. Successive Indian govern-
ments have modified traditional Hindu marriage law by legislation, forbid-
ding the marriage of children, legitimizing widow remarriage, and, in 1955,
forbidding polygamy and allowing divorce. However, feelings against some
of these innovations remain strong in many Hindu families, and divorce and
widow remarriage are rare.
Hindu funerals normally involve cremation. In India, the corpse is
burned as soon as possible after death, and the bones are thrown into a
river, preferably the Ganges (Ganga) or another sacred stream. For 10 or
more days, the family is ritually impure; the relatives, with shaven heads,
confine themselves, as far as is possible, to the family home, performing
antyeshti ceremonies for the welfare of the soul of the dead person.
Without these rites, the soul will find it impossible to achieve a rebirth. The
rites consist of pouring libations of water and of offering rice balls (pinda)
and milk to the departed spirit. On the tenth day, the soul acquires a
subtle body and reaps the fruits of its former deeds, whether good or
A minister must conduct burial or cremation services, the funeral service,
and assist the family with the disposition of the remains.
OTHER PRACTICES OR RESTRICTIONS
Dietary Laws or Restrictions
Hindu teachings advise the practice of Healthful Living and modera-
tion. Many members abstain from the use of alcohol or tobacco and some
An autopsy may be performed when needed; however, permission from
the family should be obtained, if possible.
Generally there are no restrictions on medical treatment provided persons
practicing the Hindu faith; however, they prefer herbal or natural treat-