How people bury their dead

How people bury their dead

By Maria Famakinwa
Funerals are as indispensable to the dead as death is inevitable to the living. The orientation and culture of people vary from place to place, so also is the system of funeral as well as custom of burial.

 Foreign cultures like India and China, differ in the way they bury their dead. In India, findings show that they cremate their dead. The procedure for the final respect takes place within 24 hours. The women in the family prepare the body for cremation by placing the body on a bier or platform and allow family members to scatter flowers on the body of the dead. The mouth of the deceased will be filled with rice which is tantamount to nourishing the departed soul. Coins will also be placed in each hand of the dead after which the body will be taken to the cremation centre.

 In China, the job of coordinating and preparing the funeral falls on the children because, it is seen as part of devotion to one’s parents. Family members must consult the Chinese Almanac to determine the date of the funeral ceremony. Most Chinese funeral invitation cards are white but if the person is age 80 and above, the color of the invitations will be pink. The deceased person wears a white robe and white envelopes with paper money are tucked inside the coffin. At the funeral, the family burn spirit paper to ensure that their loved ones have a safe journey to the spirit world.

Here in Nigeria, the Igbo culture according to Mr Ifeanyi Okorie believe  that their dead must be brought to the village for burial no matter what. “We believe that any deceased adult that is denied the gift of Igbo funeral rites never finds peace beyond and that a deceased adult who is yet to receive her funeral rites will keep reincarnating and dying as infant and will never enjoy  life in the beyond and that the soul of such a deceased will rise and torment his/her family members until the funeral rites are performed.”

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The 78-year-old pa Okorie from Anambra State further said that burial rite is so important in the Eastern part of the country that in some  states in the East, if a man did not pay the bride price of his wife and the woman died, he would be forced to wed the dead before the woman could be buried. “The reason is to discourage young men from keeping somebody’s else’s child as wife without going to see the parents.”

 On why Igbo celebrate the death of adolescent, he   responded, “It is not every Igbo that does that and it doesn’t mean that those doing it are rejoicing for loosing a young person, they are only observing the culture and traditions of the land. No one will be happy to loose his child.”

An Hausa trader, Mr Useni Bala, speaking on how Hausa bury their dead explained that they follow Islamic burial principle.” If a person die according to the Islamic injunction, he/she must be buried  before the sun set. The deceased is washed by friends, wrapped in a shroud and buried facing eastward because we believe that a person must face where he/she  is going. Autopsies are discouraged as it is believed that there should be no physical interference with the dead. After the burial rite, the spouse will mourn the deceased for three months.”

The Hope spoke with  Ondo people  Ikale, Ondo and Akure on how they bury their dead. An Ikale woman, Mrs Tale Ekuowo, explained that Ikale people who are from the Southern Senatorial District of Ondo State traditionally believe that when their sons and daughters die, the body must be brought back to the village for burial. “Even if Ikale daughter who is married to another tribe died, the body must be buried in her father’s house. Likewise, if Ikale man who lives outside the state dies, he must be brought to the village for burial.  Some years ago an Ikale woman married to a rich man from Oyo state died and was buried in the man’s house despite initial warning that it was forbidden to do so. Nine months after the burial, the man came to apologise that he should be allowed to exume the corpse and brought it to be buried in the wife’s  village because of calamities that he was  facing after the burial. Another sacrifice was offered  before the man could be allowed to bring the corpse to the  village for burial. It is an age long tradition that no one dares change to avoid calamities.”

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Ondo and Akure people have similar way of burying their dead as revealed by Mr Adeniyi Adetona who is related to both towns adding that burial ceremony is an expensive event in the two especially when the deceased is a title holder. “Using Ondo communities town  as a case study, when a person dies, especially a chief, the news is broken to the Oba with gifts after which there would be dancing round the town for nine days performing rituals. The maternal relation of the deceased are responsible for the provision of the coffin while the husband of the daughters of the deceased take charge of the digging of the grave as the eldest daughter brings a goat, 30 wrapped of pounded yam and a keg of undiluted palmwine. After the burial, the widow of the deceased usually keep vigil throughout the night of the seventh day amidst singing and drumming. In the middle of the night, the widow goes  through series of rituals to protect her  from the spirit of the husband that hovers around them.”

On why some Ondo people bury their dead at homes, he  said that it is a taboo to bury loved ones in strange land  (cementery) which is designated burial place in most city centres in some parts of the country.”Some aged parents before their death  chose where they should be buried and no one dares change such.

Burying the dead at residential place  in Yoruba land is part of our culture for the dead to remain part and parcel of the family, so that,  family members could have access to them through sacrifice which could not be allowed if buried in cemetery.

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“Some also prefer burying the remains of relative at home to prevent the land from being  snatched. There is nothing bad burying loved one at home to sustain the memory in as much as the grave is six feet deep to ensure that the remains is buried at a reasonable point, so that offensive odour during decomposition is not emitted  and that the remains is not within the easy reach of scavengers like rodent, criminals who dig up graves or element of nature such as flood. Most exciting public cemeteries in Nigeria are over-whelmed, over -crowded, unsecure and poorly managed. Thus, many people would rather prefer being buried at home than in such places”, he added.

How people bury their dead

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