What Color Do Hindus Wear to Funerals?

by Nicole Seaton

In traditional Hindu funerals, white is the standard color for grieving friends and family members of the deceased. Casual, white clothing is the preferred norm. In fact, many mourners wear sandals to the funeral, as it is compulsory to take off shoes to pray at the temple during services. Wearing black, which is customary in Western cultures to denote mourning, is considered impolite at a Hindu funeral.

Hindu Funeral Attire

Although white is the standard color to dress the deceased during hindu funeral rites, exceptions to the corpse's attire exist. For example, if a wife dies before her husband, she may be dressed in red, the traditional Hindu color for wedding dresses. If the deceased is a young or unmarried girl, she can be dressed in orange, yellow or white. Most Hindus are cremated with their burial clothes. However, many Brahmins of the priestly caste are buried upright adorned in a simple white cloth rather than being cremated.

Significance of White Clothing

In the Hindu religion, the significance of color plays an important role in all aspects of life, including death. White is the color of purity and a mixture of the different symbolic colors in Hinduism. The Brahmin, the highest social caste, wear white both in life and in death. Red symbolizes both purity and innocence, so girls under 3 and married women are both dressed in red when they die. The color saffron also represents purity. Green represents life, while yellow is the color for education and knowledge. Blue represents determination and valor.

Ritual Cleanse

After the funeral, family members should purify themselves, preferably in a river or auspicious body of water. Some Hindus bathe with their white mourning clothes on, because everything associated with death denotes impurity. The mourning clothes should be discarded or washed before the funeral party enters the home. Once they have returned home, the family can change clothes. The shrine room is closed off and draped with white fabric. Everyone takes part in the cleaning and purification of the home where their loved one died.

Simple and Modest

In Hindu culture, it is customary to dress casual for a funeral. White, simple clothing is the preferred norm for men, women and children. One reason for casual funeral attire is that after the funeral has taken place, people either get rid of their clothes or wash them before going home. Both mourners and the clothes worn to the funeral need to be cleaned and purified. Hindu funerals are meant to be simple and solemn, and displaying bright colors or black clothing might be seen as disrespectful to the deceased.

About the Author

Nicole Seaton has been a freelance writer since 2001. Her work has appeared in "The Reno News and Review" and "The Flow," a trade publication for the flame-working community. Seaton earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations and Spanish, and has studied in Argentina and Spain.

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