Asthi Visarjan (Ashes Dispersal)

This post was written by Bhasmank Mehta, Posted on 24th February 2016,Updated on 19th August 2016

CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, Asthi actually means bones, not Ashes.  On this basis, it would be dispersal of bones.  However, I suppose, for Ashes being that of the bones, from the Colonial times when they (the English) applied the Biblical translation and called it Ashes.  Nowadays, here in the UK, the facility exists to crush the remains into powder and so the bones are no longer.  Else, it is actually the bones that are being dispersed, even to this day.  It is worth noting that these bones (the remains) are small and unrecognisable once subjected to extreme heat unlike those left to decay.  Best parts of the large bones including the skull are beaten to pieces during the burning process.  It is this, the Ashes following cremation, in powder form or small remains that is being dispersed during this ceremony.

If anyone can improve on this explanation, do please come forward.

Though this ceremony is short and simple in modern times, many prefer to perform this ceremony themselves.  It’s a shame really as what most priests including your very own Sanatan Hindu Priest, Bhasmank Mehta can and do explain when conducting this ceremony, helps the grieving find solace.

The longer ceremony, with a full explanation is carried out after the 12th day, more often on the 14th day.  Asthi Visarjan is that special moment when the last of the actual elements of the body is dispersed in the river or even off shore if and where possible.  For some, this is an emotional occasion as this is the last chance to hold the actual physical element of their loved ones.

In the long list of charitable acts that one can perform, this is the final opportunity for and on behalf of the deceased in his or her physical presence, albeit in the form of Ashes only!  The act of offering gifts to a Brahmin, the highest of all the charitable acts[1] is recommended as ‘must accomplish’. Other links will be added herein as and when I have populated relevant articles.

During this ceremony, the Brahmin explains the significance of Ashes being dispersed in Water as opposed to scattering them over the land or (what appears to be a new form of spectacle) to store in an “Ash Bank” – a small pigeon-hole in a brick built structure (Usually within the grounds of a Crematorium or a Graveyard) wherein the container is thus retained!!!

Some may object for Shiv had scattered his first wife Devi’s Ashes all over the Universe.  True. However, the distance from which this was done ensured that the land below gave way … all the way to the waters running below (A reason offered in both the Bible and Qur’an as to why the dead are buried “for the waters running below …”!).  As one of many examples of this – the deep well that was thus created by dispersing part of Devi’s Ashes – can be witnessed at Kurukshetra, Hariyana, India.  (Similar to a situation when a Meteoroid hits the land.  Invariably a hole thus created is deep enough for water below to spout out.)  There are eleven other places where such ashes were scattered.  These, in modern terms are now known as Shakti Pith.

Unlike the aforementioned, instead of “Dust to Dust” and “Ashes to Ashes” (where the body is buried, it is “Water to Water” within the Sanatan Dharma.  This is because it is from water that a body is created and therefore it is water within which it must dissolve.  Or, in this case, immerse; as the water has long been vaporised during cremation[2] and thus, purified[3].

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[1]                   – Please see FAQ re the types of Charitable Acts and their significance.

[2]             – Please see Funerals section.

[3]                   – A story of Lord Indra (King of Demi-Gods) expanding on this topic of purification will be published soon.

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