Mohanlal was part of a large, caring community who all turned up to celebrate his life at a traditional Hindu funeral service. 

“Grandad was a generous and giving person. He always had time and made time for everyone. He’d go into town to the market, buy loads of fresh fruit and veg for the house. When he was able to, he was very outgoing. He’d go the gym. In fact, he spent most of his time at the gym. 6 or 7 hours a day there. 

“He didn’t have any kind of conversation with us about what he wanted to happen when he passed away. It’s difficult to even process any of it now. He was here a couple of months ago and now he’s not. The most important thing for the funeral, for us, was the whole family getting together. Togetherness and celebrating his life. It was great seeing how many people from the family and community turned up for him. About 200 people came. When it comes to Hindu funerals, it’s not just people who knew you who come. With my grandad’s funeral, there were people who knew him, as well as their families. Their kids. Their kid’s kids. Loads of people.” 

The most important thing for the funeral, for us, was… togetherness and celebrating his life. It was great seeing how many people from the family and community turned up for him.

“When he passed away, he was taken to the funeral parlour by the undertakers. After a few days, we had an appointment to clean and dress his body. We used water from the river Ganges, turmeric, and yoghurt to clean his body, then dressed him a day or two before the funeral. Just in his usual clothes – a suit, a nice pair of trainers. He always wore his shades, so we put his shades on him as well. 

“Hindu funerals are open casket. So we put sheets in the coffin. Before Covid, we used to put other things in the coffin too. Butter… things like that. But not many people do that anymore. Covid changed a lot of things.” 

We had an appointment to clean and dress his body. We used water from the river Ganges, turmeric, and yoghurt.

“Then there are ceremonies in the build-up to the funeral itself. People came to Grandad’s house, read prayers, read out of the book. We fed everyone who turned up. On the 12th day after he passed away, we did a ceremony to release his soul from his body into the next life. It was led by the brahman who was conducting the funeral. Immediate family and close friends only. It takes a while. The ceremony was 8 hours long. Loads of prayers and asking predecessors to come and collect his soul.” 

The funeral 

“On the day of the funeral, the coffin came home from the undertakers. All of Grandad’s immediate family were there. The undertakers opened the coffin, and we had our time with him to say goodbye. Then we spread flower petals around him and anyone who visited put what they wanted in the coffin too. 

“We had prayers at the house and the hearse arrived. We have a tradition where the youngest born child breaks a pot outside of the house while the coffin is carried out. That happened and then we went to the crematorium. We carried the coffin inside for the ceremony to start. 

“The Brahman conducted the ceremony. We said prayers and sang hymns from the prayer book. There was a brief insight into Grandad’s life. A few people made speeches and my sister made a speech on behalf of all of his grandkids. 

“People tend to wear white at Hindu funerals. Some people chose to wear black though. There was a mix. We had flower garlands, flowers with my grandad’s initials, and a flower with “Bapu-Ji” on it – that’s what we used to call him, it’s basically “grandad” in Hindi.” 

After the funeral 

“After the funeral, everyone came back to my grandad’s house. We fed everyone. Lots of vegetarian food… rice, curries. The house was rammed. So many people were there. A few stayed behind longer, and we spoke about my grandad’s life.” 

My grandad was from Tanzania. So, in his memory, I donated enough to feed an orphanage there. I wanted to feed 84 people in honour of his 84th birthday.

“My grandad was from Tanzania. So, in his memory, I donated enough to feed an orphanage there. I wanted to feed 84 people in honour of his 84th birthday. There ended up being 120 kids in total though, so we covered that. One of my relative’s mums was out there and knew how much to send to cover enough lamb, rice, kidney beans and snacks.” 

Sunny’s tips for planning a funeral 

“I have a big family and we’re part of a big community, so there are enough people around who’ve experienced planning a funeral to know the procedures. We had a lot of guidance. Lots of people delegating and letting us know what was needed. 

“But you can never really prepare yourself fully. Just think about what the person would’ve wanted. Don’t overthink things. And don’t focus too much on what you think everyone else wants. Nothing is silly. Just do your best and everything should go alright.”

To thank Sunny for sharing his story, we’ve made a contribution to Action Cerebral Palsy in memory of Mohanlal.

  

Photo from iStock.