Overview

There are four main religions in Sri Lanka, which have all their way of burying their deaths. Muslims bury their dead people within 24 hours after the person has passed away. The ceremony is simple and carried out only by men. The death of a person is announced by the local mosque through the loudspeaker. The mosque authorities then select a burial place, which will be dug by teenage and young adult boys. As soon as the body is released from the hospital it will be prepared for the funeral. Male corpses are washed and perfumed by males and female corpses by females. Until the actual burial time relations and villagers can see the body for the last time, however males are not allowed to see female bodies and vice versa, except for close family members. During this session at the house of the diseased person no consumptions will be served; only after the burial ceremony sweet cool drinks and snacks will be served. The body will be carried out from the house with the head towards the exit of the house, so that the soul cannot travel back to the house. The naked corpse is covered around in a white cloth. On the way to the burial site a communal prayer in presence of the corpse takes place in the mosque. The body will be laid without coffin in the grave on its side with its face directed eastwards in the direction of Makkah, the holy place for all Muslims. After the burial there is a mourning period of three days, but the wives of the diseased person has to stay in the house for four months, without being seen by other men, except for close family members.

 

A Buddhist ceremony is different from a Muslim funeral. The body stays longer above the ground and is in a coffin. The coffin is folded open, showing the full body in a suit or dress. Hands are always covered with gloves. The undertakers take out all internal organs after having replaced the body with a chemical liquid, so that the body can be preserved for a longer time while being in the house. They have no coolers and the climate is hot, so therefore they do have to do it like this. The exposed body is put under a canopy and decorated with elephant tusks. The body is guarded by family members or friends during the nights before the funeral. A white cloth is put on the coffin and white cloth is given to the monks, who don’t come to the cemetery. They give the cloth to poor people to make clothes from it. The road to the burial place or crematorium is lined with white flags to keep bad spirits out. Like in the Muslim funeral, it is custom to take the body out of the house with the head facing the exit and carried to the cemetery like that to prevent the soul finding the way back to the house. The grave is also surrounded by white flags and the guests are dressed in white sari’s and white sarongs. Flowers are being given with the diseased person, symbolizing the temporality of life. Usually Buddhist corpses are being cremated. An almsgiving is organized three months after the person has passed away, followed by an annual almsgiving.