A recent news report says that the dead body of a rape victim was cremated by Indian police very late in the night:

"We wanted the last rites to be performed according to the Hindu traditions. Despite our protests, the cremation was performed. They took the body forcefully. We couldn't see our daughter's face for the last time," the woman's father told NDTV.


At 2:30 am, while most of her family was home, the police cremated the body.

And one of the commenters under the article says:

I am so petrified. According to scriptures, no one should be cremated after sunset.

Neither Indian law nor Hindu law is followed in UP.

What do scriptures say about the timing of cremation?

If the commenter is right, how is that the burning ghats of Varanasi operate 24/7? Is it because Varanasi is a special place and the timing of cremation doesn't matter at this place?

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The burning ghat in Varanasi, India's oldest city, glows as burning pyres continue through the night.

  • 1
    the contents of a news report seem irrelevant to a question about shastra
    – ram
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 2:47
  • 1
    Yes, but it provides a context for the readers. @ram Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 2:57
  • every scriptural injunction exists to address a particular circumstance (context) in life. Adding it to each question takes away focus from a scriptural pov to a personal-advice pov. e.g. I asked a popular question about 'cutting nails' - that worked just fine even without any context like 'I saw a news report about nail cutting and the person quoted "..."'. In another question I briefly mentioned 'Recently Mandir Bhumi Pujan was done', without extra fittings. People can get context without verbatim reproduction of news reports, which contain unneeded tangential info and take away focus
    – ram
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 3:05
  • 1
    It should be left to the user if/how much context they want to provide. @ram Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 3:15
  • 1
    The answer posted below is proof that it doesn't take away the focus. @ram Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 3:25

1 Answer 1


Cremation can be done after sunset. In fact, it appears that there exists a Sastric injunction that if one fails to perform the cremation within 10 hours from the time of death then that creates a Dosha which is to be remedied by performing a particular Prayaschitta. So, in certain cases, the cremation has to be done in the night only.

My reference here is the book "Apara Kriyas and Shraddham":

Similarly many other doshas, for which prayaschitta is required, are listed in Dharma Sastra- vomiting, oozing of blood, passing of urine and stools while dying or afterwards, wearing dirty dress, failure to perform Nitya karmas in state of unconsciousness etc., dying in night, in case of women- impurity of delivery or menses, dying of thunder, rain, flood, fire, poison etc., and failure to cremate within twenty five nazhigais (10 hours).

Prayaschitta should be performed for all the doshas and impurities mentioned earlier and then the applicable Agni should be lit. Paryushita Prayaschittam should be performed, if cremation is delayed after death. ‘Paryushita’ means stale, insipid. Sastra prescribes a maximum of delay of 25 nazhigais (10 hours), if death occurs during day time and similarly in the night but before 9 nazhigais (i.e. before 9:45 p.m). If cremation takes place during the night for one who died in daytime and similarly, during day for one who died in night, Paryushita Prayaschittam should be performed.

The current practice of postponing cremation long after death occurs has no sanction in Sastras. It is cruel to the dead person as the Jiva has already left the body and he is made to experience severe suffering of not only hunger and thirst but also of separation from the body he loves which is still on the ground. Hence, cremation should not be postponed for flimsy reasons like the son is abroad and has to come etc. It is only for such emergencies that the order of priority of Kartas has been clearly spelt out in the Sastras. Hence, cremation should be performed immediately after death occurs, at the hands of the available Karta in the order of priority. This is very important.

The Karta should do Vapanam (shave) after cremation is over. He chants this mantra at that time: मेरुतदर तुल्िन पापािन ििििधािन च ।
केशानािश्य ितष्ठत तस्ात् केशान् िपाम्हम् ॥

“Various types of sins, massive as the Meru and Mandara mountains, abide in my hairs. Hence I shave off the hairs.” For Gnatis, Vapanam is on the tenth day. In the case of death of father or mother, even if it is Friday, and even if cremation occurs in the night, Vapanam and Pindodaka danam by Karta should be done immediately. In the case of death of others, the Vapanam should be done the next day.

As the dress of the Preta has been burnt, he feels naked and shy. In order to avert that feeling, the Karta gives dress required for ten days with dakshina, ghee, Til, Urid dal, food grains, vegetables and bronze vessel as Danam to Brahmanas. This is called Nagna Prachchadana Sraaddham. This should be done immediately after the cremation, if cremation is done in daytime. If cremation is done in night time, in the case of father or the mother this Sraaddham should be done immediately; in the case of others, the next day. After the Sraaddham, Karta will enter the home along with Gnatis carrying Deepam. The house should have been purified before the return of the Karta with cow dung and water and Punyahavachanam.

So, although, as this books says, that there are scriptural injunctions regarding the topic but I was not able to find them directly from some scriptures.

  • 2
    The speaker in this video says the same thing. It could be a local custom not to cremate after sunset. Commented Oct 1, 2020 at 20:59

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