Dying, Death and Bereavement in a British Hindu Community by Shirley Firth Book Summary:
This study is an exploration of the religious beliefs, attitudes, traditions and rituals of a British hindu community, with respect to dying, death and bereavement. The observations of this community are compared with material obtained during three months of fieldwork in India and ethnographic sources. The primary focus of this study is on individual Hindus, seen in the context of their family and community: their beliefs, experiences and perceptions about death, and their reactions to the changes that take place. It also examines the process of adaptation and change in the death rituals and the role of the pandits in maintaining continuity. The first part of this study sets the context, introducing the issues confronting Hindus facing death and bereavement in Britain. It discusses theoretical issues in a multicultural study as well as beliefs about death and life after death. In the second part, Hindu ritual practices around death are explored, using a model of nine stages from preparation for death to the final post-mortem and annual ancestral rituals. The third part explores the social and psychological dimensions of death, grief and mourning, the implications of death in hospital and the professional and bureaucratic issues which affect Hindu deaths in Britain. The social aspects of mourning are discussed, with reference to pollution, the role of the family and community, young people and widows. Finally, the author examines the implications of social changes for British Hindus and for those who are involved with them in the caring professions.