Sikhs view death as a separation of the soul from the body and is considered part of God’s will. Cremation is the accepted form of disposal of the body. The body is bathed and dressed in fresh clothes. At the crematorium the prayer known as the ‘Kirtan Sohila’ is often recited. A member of the family will then light the funeral pyre. In traditional ceremonies this will be done with a naked flame, but in Britain it is more usual for a family member to push the button for the coffin to disappear.
The first line is read from the Holy Book and Ardas, prayers, are said. Sikh scriptures state that relatives should not indulge in wailing and anguish. Hymns that induce a feeling of detachment are sometimes sung on the way to the crematorium to aid the family in not showing their grief.
Men wear black headscarves to the funeral and women wear pale coloured or white headscarves Ashes are collected and scattered in running water or on the sea. After the cremation guests return to the family home and readings are given and hymns sung. Neighbours and families make a substantial meal for the bereaved family. Everyone must bath as soon as they go home, to cleanse themselves. A candle, jot, is burned in the home, made from Ghee (clarified butter) and cotton, which has a sweet smell and cleanses the home. The mourning period lasts between two and five weeks.