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Death Ceremonies

Death Ceremonies

When a person is about to expire all members of the Tharavad, one by one pour a few drops of water into his or her mouth, holding in the hand a piece of gold or a gold ring. If the Tharavad is rich enough to afford it, a small gold coin is placed in the mouth, and the lips are closed. As soon as death has taken place, the corpse is removed from the cot or bed, and carried to  a room in the northern end of the house where it is placed on long plantain leaves spread out on the floor. The corpse is covered from top to toe with a pure white  cloth and placed on the floor with the head towards the south. One nilavilakku (lamp)  and two broken coconut lamps are kept burning, one near the head and the other near the feet of the dead body and here the neighbours come to take a farewell look at it. Then comes the Pattum Kachayum Iduka or the placing of new clothes over the body by all the relatives outside the Tharavad. The body is then removed to the cremation ground in the south eastern corner of the Tharavad garden, where the funeral pyre is prepared of the wood of a mango tree cut for the ocassion. The corpse is generally carried by the Machampikkars (near relatives) on a bier made of bamboo. The body is placed on the pyre with the head towards the south. The junior members go around the pyre three times, throw paddy and rice over the dead body, prostrate at the feet of the corpse and then set fire to the pyre, the senior Anantharavan (nephew), who is next in age to the deceased, leading them. When the body is burnt the funeral party bathe, and then follows the breaking of the pot. This consists off the chief mourner carrying on his head an earthern pot filled with water with a small hole at the bottom, thrice around the pyre and then breaking the pot near the head of the corpse. When the water thus trickles down from the pot, the junior members direct the particles to the corpse, probably to purify it.
 
The Sanchayanam or the collection of the cremated remains takes place generally on the seventh day (which can be changed according to convenience in urban city). The bones are collected in the new pot and deposited at the foot of a fig or jack tree, and at the next convenient oppurtunity removed therefrom and thrown into the waters of a sacred river. The ground itself, where the body has been cremated, is dug up and sown with grains or planted with a coconut tree. After the Sanchayanam funeral cakes are offered to the manes of the departed till date of purification (16th day) , in which the Maran officiates as priest.
 
Pollution is observed for sixteen days by the members of the Tharavad/family and by the widow and children of the deceased. The sixteenth day is the day of purification. On that day, a grand feast is given to all the relatives and friends of the Tharavad/family.