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Why are women not allowed at the shamshan ghat ? Can they perform the final rites of their parent if she is only child to their parents ?

  • I have seen women performing final rites of their parent. From where did you get the info that women are not allowed in shamshan ghat? – Chinmay Sarupria Sep 17 '16 at 19:08
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    I do not know why they are not allowed but it is correct that women do not visit burial/funeral grounds. As to your second question, dauhitra (son of one's daughter) has the adhikara to perform funeral rites. If the dauhitra's parents are both alive, then a proxy (only a male) performs the rites in his name. Please check with your local priests/purohitas. Almanacs, panchangas also carry this information to some extent. – user1195 Sep 18 '16 at 5:21
  • Women are allowed to do tarpanam atleast. – Rickross Sep 18 '16 at 5:28
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    No @Rickross, they are not. The only place they are allowed to do so is matru gaya, according to scholars. – user1195 Sep 18 '16 at 6:13
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    It is may be wrong to consider that women are not allowed or don't visit or shouldn't visit funeral grounds of their near and dear. Now, this seems to vary depending on communities, geographical location, family traditions etc but surely, I have seen women even from brahmin communities and even other communities visiting funeral grounds.. I have seen some priests saying that even men who have their ( both parents) alive, would be better of not visiting the funeral grounds.. So, there seems to be some local traditions and customs playing a role here rather than any scriptural Injunctions. – user808 Sep 18 '16 at 8:33
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Prohibiting Women from entering Graveyards is ācāram more than a śāstra. Usually women are sensitive and cannot withstand the death of husbands and sons and family members. If they are allowed there they might take their own life out of agony. One such examples are Mādri died by falling in the cremation fire of Pāndu in Mahābhārata. In the biography of Narasimha Saraswati in Guru Charitra - a story in which a mother getting her dead son back is narrated in which she refuses to give dead body and gets ready to die along with him. Another story also in which a wife is ready to do sati sahagamanam along with her husband's dead body is also narrated in Guru Charitra. So to avoid such wrong happenings out of agony and grief, it has been kept as an ācāra, but there is no such prohibition in dharma śāstras.

As far as women performing rites is considered, they are allowed to do as stated by Garuḍa Purāṇam, Preta Kalpa Chapter Eight (Source 1 and Source 2)

गरुड उवाच -

स्वामिन्कस्याधिकारोऽत्र सर्व एवौर्ध्वदेहिके । क्रियाः कतिविधाः प्रोक्ता वदैतत्सर्वमेव मे ॥ १ ॥

garuḍa uvāca -

svāminkasyādhikāro'tra sarva evaurdhvadehike । kriyāḥ katividhāḥ proktā vadaitatsarvameva me ॥ 1 ॥

Garuda said -

O Lord, now tell me who are authorized to perform obsequies and what are the methods of performance prescribed in the śāstras.

श्रीकृष्ण उवाच -

पुत्रः पौत्रः प्रपौत्रो वा तद्भ्राता भ्रातृसन्ततिः । सपिण्डसन्ततिर्वापि क्रियार्हाः खग ज्ञातय ॥ २ ॥

śrīkṛṣṇa uvāca -

putraḥ pautraḥ prapautro vā tadbhrātā bhrātṛsantatiḥ । sapiṇḍasantatirvāpi kriyārhāḥ khaga jñātaya ॥ 2 ॥

Sri Krishna (The Lord) said -

Son, Grandson, Great grandson, his brother and brother's progeny, so also sapiṇḍa progeny - all these are authorized to perform the obsequies.

तेषामभावे सर्वेषां समानोदकसन्ततिः । कुलद्वयेऽपि चोच्छिन्ने स्त्रीभिः कार्याः क्रियाः खग ॥ ३ ॥

teṣāmabhāve sarveṣāṃ samānodakasantatiḥ । kuladvaye'pi cocchinne strībhiḥ kāryāḥ kriyāḥ khaga ॥ 3 ॥

In their absence, samānodaka progeny can perform the rite. If both the families are maleless the women should perform the obsequies.

इच्छयोच्छिन्नबन्धश्च कारयेदवनीपतिः । पूर्वाः क्रिया मध्यमाश्च तथा चैवोत्तराः क्रियाः ॥ ४ ॥

icchayocchinnabandhaśca kārayedavanīpatiḥ । pūrvāḥ kriyā madhyamāśca tathā caivottarāḥ kriyāḥ ॥ 4 ॥

In the absence any family or relative, the king may perform all the rites - the preliminary, the middling and the final.

Also, the Garuḍa Purāṇam Sāroddhāra (Essence of Garuḍa Purāṇam, considered equivalent to Garuḍa Purāṇam and recited widely) in its Chapter 11 (śloka 18) says

स्त्री वाऽथ पुरुषः कश्चिदिष्टस्य कुरुते क्रियाम् । अनाथप्रेतसंस्कारात्कोटियज्ञफमं लभेत् ॥

strī vā'tha puruṣaḥ kaścidiṣṭasya kurute kriyām । anāthapretasaṃskārātkoṭiyajñaphalaṃ labhet

A woman or man who performs the rites for anātha preta (unknown person or friend) obtains the fruit of performing a crore (or unlimited) sacrifices (yajña). This (Regarding Anātha Preta rites) is also said in Garuḍa Purāṇam, Preta Kalpa Chapter Thirty Eight (śloka 40) as अनाथप्रेतसंस्कारः कोटियज्ञफलप्रदः

Hope this helps you.

  • Good answer, upvoted. You should consider quoting the stories of Guru Charitra directly here or adding links to them. 'Mādri died by falling in the cremation fire of Pāndu in Mahābhārata' - this story seems like an interpolation as logically it doesn't make sense, see pg 8-9 of INTERPOLATIONS IN THE MAHĀBHĀRATA - M. A. Mehendale. – sv. Sep 21 '16 at 18:04
  • @sv, you're right. she didn't 'fall' in the fire, she voluntarily entered it. – ram Aug 27 '17 at 4:40
  • @ram - didn't follow your comment. I suggest reading the logical contradiction (i.e., Mādri cremated twice) at this link – sv. Aug 28 '17 at 21:56
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  1. When all male members of the family leave for shamshan ghat, someone has to be in the house to clean it and take care of it. And traditionally, this is the duty of the household women. Hence, women stay at home doesn't go to shamshan ghat.

  2. Some say that a funeral is hard to watch. According to Hindu mythology, before leaving the shamshan ghat the family members of the deceased must ensure that the dead body is fully burnt. Sometimes due to the heat, the body may cramp up, and it is not a pleasure to watch. Women in Hindu religion are considered to have a delicate heart and this can leave a disturbing image for a long time.

  3. A funeral is really horrid to watch. Sometime, the corpse jerks up and needs to be beaten back into the pyre using bamboo sticks. The smokes are foul and these are enough to make any normal human feel rather sick. Traditionally, it is believed that girls are weaker mentally and will not be able to handle such a scene.

  4. Some say that married women are allowed at the shamshan ghat and that because that they considered not pure whereas unmarried girls meaning the virgin ones are said to be pure and it is easy for ghosts, evil spirits and fierce deities to get their control through bad means.

  5. Few people opined that because women can't shave their head, they are not allowed. This is because, as per Hindu theory of evils, if you go inside grave yard you may carry one of evil element with you and perception is hairs are the part of body through which evil element can enter ones body. If you want to shave off your head alongwith men going inside graveyard you can go.

Source

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1. To Take Care Of The House

While the men of the house go to the cremation ground, the women being the caretakers of the house, are expected to clean the house and look after it. Traditionally, women were also expected to keep the food ready for the men returning from the cremation ground.

2. It’s A Disturbed Sight

It is believed that some women are weak hearted and therefore may not be able to bear the terrible sight of bodies being burned. As per Hindu mythology, before leaving the shamshan ghat the family members must ensure that the dead body is fully burnt and because of the heat, the body may cramp up, which isn’t easy to watch.

3. Long Hair Can Attract Negative Energy

Hair is considered as one of the evil element. Therefore, people still believe that long hair can attract negative energy and thus make it easy for evil spirits to possess women. Since women can’t shave their head, they are not allowed to enter the shamshan ghat.

4. Ghost Effect

It is said that unmarried women (specifically virgins) are pure and therefore easier to be possessed by the evil spirits. As against, married women can enter the cremation ground as they are difficult to be controlled through bad means.

5. A Ritual Belief

According to some traditional beliefs in Hindu mythology, tears are considered as pollutants during the last rights of the deceased. Women being soft-hearted may shed tears or weep and thus it may not make the dead person feel at peace.

Source

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Women had to clean the house properly

In earlier times, the women of the house were assigned the duty of cleaning the house after others left for the cremation ground with the dead body. While the men of the house were charged with taking care of everything relation to the cremation and funeral of the deceased, the women were charged with the duty of preparing food so that the men could eat when they returned home after performing the last rights.

Women are supposed to avoid scary scenes

When a dead body’s pyre is usually lit, the entire scene of a human body burning is considered to be quite nasty. It has often been seen in earlier times that while burning, the body would sit up straight due to muscle spasms and remaining electrons in the body, and the people there would hit the body with sticks and heavy stones. Such scary scenes can turn into a nightmare for the women in the family, because the burning body being hit is, or rather, was, someone close to them. That is the reason it is smart to avoid this debacle.

Women cannot handle such disturbed imagery

People are often of the belief that women are born with fragile and weak hearts and so they cannot tolerate anything scary or disturbing. As per Hindu traditions, the deceased’s body needs to burnt properly and completely, so that nothing but ash is left. This entire process can take more than one day. Usually, women are charged with taking care of the house and feeding the kids and the elderly, and besides, the smell of burning flesh and the entire scene is extremely disturbing. Hence, women are not allowed to go to cremation grounds.

Women are supposed to be vulnerable to possession by spirits

In earlier times, it was presumed that women were much more vulnerable in terms of possession by evil and wondering spirits than the men. If, in any case, they went to the cremation grounds for the deceased’s funeral, especially unmarried women, they were sure to get possessed. The married women were a lot less vulnerable in this case. But people seriously should not believe in such nonsensical myths.

Women shouldn’t have to shave their heads

Hair was assumed to be a magnet for all evil spirits. And with women having long hair and cremation grounds supposedly having several evil spirits, they would have to shave their heads, as is the custom for all those who go to the cremation grounds for the funeral. To make things easier for them and to not shave their beautiful hair off, the rule of not allowing them at a funeral pyre was invented.

Source

  • But women shave their heads when their husband die. – Ganesh Sep 22 '16 at 13:34

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