Funeral Etiquette

Proper Dress Attire

Mourners who attend any of the various funeral ceremonies should not wear black. It is customary for guests and family member to wear white, and no head covering is required for either sex. Women should dress conservatively, covering arms and knees. Open-toe shoes are acceptable, as is jewelry… but keep a light touch with the jewelry, nothing flashy.

Offering Condolences

Immediately upon hearing of the death, it is customary to visit the bereaved family in their home to offer your sympathy. If that’s not possible, a phone call can suffice.

Participation Expectations

At the funeral, the body is displayed in an open casket. Guests at the funeral should expect to view the body, offer condolences to the family, and then take their seat quietly. Non-Hindus are expected to sit quietly during the ceremony, although they are welcome to participate in the ritual chanting of mantras that takes place.

Some people may also attend the cremation ceremony, although non-Hindus do not participate in the mukhagni, the Hindu word for the cremation ceremony. Traditional Hindu funeral rites dictate that the mukhagni is only attended by men. However, mourners should check with the family or the funeral director to find out what’s appropriate for the funeral they are attending.

It’s appropriate to visit the family at their home after their period of mourning, which typically lasts 10 days. At this time it is appropriate to bring gifts of fruit. Usually, only those who are specifically invited to the shraddha, the third funeral ceremony, will attend.