A lot of things are considered before sending our loved ones into the unknown. The method and the way we choose to honor the deceased are majorly based upon our love, emotions, convictions and beliefs. Some of the burial methods are serene and simple while others are festive and over the top. So, here is a list of ten unique and interesting ways how people treat their dead which will help you to get a deeper insight of the traditional and cultural diversity of the world we live in especially when it comes to cremation.
1. Self Immolation (Sati)
Sati also known as suttee is a funeral practice among some Indian communities where the wife of the deceased immolates herself on the pyre of her husband’s funeral. Goddess Dakshayani or Sati practiced it and since then it was expected out of every perfect wife. Later, this method became highly controversial and was banned several times. Even though some view it as a glorification towards the dead wife, measures were taken to stop this unfair practice. Following protests after each instance, the government has now passed laws against the practice, which now make it illegal to be bystander at an event of sati. The law makes no distinction between mere observers and active promoters of the event and all are believed to be held evenly guilty.
It is another modern and environment friendly way of burial, where the dead body is disposed by freeze drying. Derived from the word “Promise”, Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak invented this process. The process involves freezing the body and placing it into nitrogen liquid to make it brittle, breaking the body into dust, drying the dust through vacuum and burying the dust in the living topsoil. The coffin becomes compost within 12 months. This inventive method has been acknowledged by the King of Sweden with an award and is practiced in more than 60 countries worldwide. The advantages of Promession than cremation are that they do not create pollution by direct emissions to the atmosphere, whereas cremation usually makes use of fossil gas like methane and releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide.
3. Towers of Silence
Dakhma, better known as towers of silence, is a Zoroastrian tradition, where the dead body is exposed to scavenging birds on a circular raised structure. To prevent the pollution of earth or fire the bodies of the dead are positioned on the top of a tower—a tower of silence—and exposed to the sun. After a year, the bones of the corpse are collected from the structure and placed in a pit. There are three parts of the roof structure divided into three rings. The outer ring is for men, middle one for women and the innermost is for the children. Zoroastrians believes that the death demon contaminates the whole body of the deceased and makes it unclean. Hence, it is a rule to dispose of the dead in a safe way.
4. Bog Bodies
Bog bodies are human corpse that has been naturally mummified inside a peat bog. The levels of preservation ranges from perfectly preserved to mere skeletons. Because of the environment having highly acidic water, low temperature, little oxygen, mummification process is achieved. In this method, bones also get dissolved due to the presence of acid in the peat. Many people find it tough to imagine that the dark bog bodies were once human beings full of flesh and blood. The only things that give a little idea of how these bog bodies looked during their life were remains of clothing, hair and facial reconstructions.
5. Memorial Diamonds
Somewhat similar to cremation art, memorial diamonds are created from the hair or ashes of the deceased. To create hair into diamonds, hair samples are subjected to a process where carbon is extracted which is then transformed to diamonds under high pressure and high temperature. When cremated remains are used, carbon is extracted in a gaseous form. Introduced by LifeGem, this method has gained popularity in many countries including Japan, United States, Switzerland and many more.
6. Hanging Coffins
Also known as Xuanguan, this method is used commonly in China, Phillippines and some part of Indonesia. It is an ancient funeral system where coffins are hanged on the sides of cliffs. Coffins of various shapes are carved from one huge piece of wood. There are three forms of hanging the coffin which are found in Gongxian, a part of China having most of the hanging coffins. Some are cantilevered out on wooden planks; some are put in caves in the face of cliffs and the third type sit on projections in the rock. It is said that these hanging coffins bless the soul eternally and protect the bodies form beasts.
7. Balinese Cremation
Also known as Ngaben, this cremation ceremony is prevalent in Bali, a province in Indonesia. The body of the deceased is considered as if sleeping. Family members do not cry because they believe that the deceased is only sleeping and will find Moksha (liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth), at his final resting place. Then, on the day of ceremony, the body is placed into a coffin which is positioned inside a sarcophagus resembling a bull or a temple structure made of wood and paper. The structure is then carried to the site of cremation by a procession. The procession doesn’t walk in a straight line in order to confuse the bad spirits and shoo them away. At the end, the entire structure is put on fire to free the spirit and ensure reincarnation. Also, shadow puppet plays, masked dances are offered by the family on the day of ceremony.
8. Cremation Art
It is very common to store ashes of your loved ones in a beautifully decorated urn and display it in your living room. However, if you truly want to show your affection for the deceased, how about displaying their ashes in a form of painting or art? Cremation art is an exciting and innovative way, where the beauty of personalized art and emotion of keeping the ashes close is combined together. Not only paintings, but ashes are also used to create jewelry pieces, glass sculptures, memory charms and a lot more. A final layer of glaze is put on the ashes to fix them permanently and hold them in place.
9. Firework Funeral
This method is a fitting and happier way to bid goodbye to your loved ones. There are many different and creative ways to spread ashes. But this method does not only spread the ashes far-off and wide, it does it with an extraordinary display of fanfare. In firework funeral, the ashes of the deceased are placed into a fireworks tube or spread into a huge consumer firework, usually a barrage or a cake. The cake is then lit as a normal firework and as each shot explodes high in the sky, the ashes are scattered with brilliant display of colors and lights. A typical firework costs around £200-£300 which usually lasts for a minute. Some professional display companies also scatter ashes on a bigger scale with a huge fireworks display.
Resomation, also known as alkaline hydrolysis, is a burial process being considered by several countries including the UK, where body is broken down chemically with the use of water and alkali. It is a modern, eco-friendly, respectful and a dignified process. In Resomation, the body is placed into a resomator which turns it into a white colored dust by applying high pressure. The entire process takes 2-3 hours, almost same time as an average cremation process. At the end, a sterile liquid and bone ash remains. Bone ash remains are returned to the loved ones in an urn and the sterile liquid is returned to the water cycle. This process has been preferred by environment friendly groups because it requires less energy and emits less carbon dioxide.