Further Notes on The Final Rites – Antyesthi ( For a devotee of Lord Vishnu)
Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami (one of the 6 Goswami’s of Vrndavana) compiled the Sat Kriya Sara Dipika (A purificatory rites manual for devotees of Lord Vishnu). By the endeavor of Bhaktivinoda Thakur, this book is now published again.   (Preface by Srila Bhaktisiddanta Sarasvati Thakur April 1935)

The Sat Kriya Sara Dipika is recognized by Bhaktivinoda Thakur, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta, Srila Prabhupada and the G.B.C. Board of Deity Worship.

In the Sat Kriya Sara Dipika (S.K.S.D.) the following is written on the death ceremony for a devotee of Lord Vishnu.

Go-dan – When a person is nearing death it is recommended that the person gift a decorated cow to a brahmana to ensure his safe passage over the river of death (Vaitarani River). Also gifts of iron pots, salt, land, grains, ghee, and laddu are also recommended.     (Page 144 S.K.S.D.)

If ones mother, father or husband dies one should fast for three days, or if that is not possible, then one should take only fruits. From the 4th day to the 10th day one should only eat havishyana (boiled food).     (Page 147 S.K.S.D.)

Following a death there is a period of contamination for the relatives of the deceased, the length of which depends upon the closeness of the relation of the deceased. The aashauca (impurity) period is between 10 days to 30 days.      (Page 150 S.K.S.D)

To ensure that the soul does not remain in a subtle body hovering on this earth planet, offerings are made to the departed person. During the aashauca period daily offerings of sesame (til) seeds and water, and pinda (rice flour mixed with sesame, ghee and honey) are given to the departed person.  On the 11th day, the house is purified, eleven Brahmins are fed and offerings are made to the deceased.  Beginning on that day, for the first year, monthly Shraaddha ceremonies should be held. As well, in the sixth and twelfth month additional Shraaddhas should be conducted.

According to Vaishnava scriptures, the Shraaddha rites may be performed, but the priest performing the rites should be a Vaishnava and the offerings to the Pitrs should be Vishnu prasada.    (Page 150 S.K.S.D.)

In the Caitanya Caritamrita Adi Lila chapter 17 Text 8:-

            “Thereafter the Lord went to Gaya. There He met Ishvara Puri”
Purport:- Mahaprabhu went to Gaya to offer respectful oblations to His forefathers. This process is called Pinda-dana. In the Vedic society, after the death of a relative, especially one’s parents, one must go to Gaya and there offer oblations to the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu. Therefore hundreds and thousands of men gather in Gaya daily to offer such oblations, or Shraddhas. Following this principle, Lord Caitanya also went to offer pinda to His dead father.

The Last Rites (Quotes from the Garuda Purana)

Go-dan :- Sesame seed, iron, gold, cotton, salt, seven types of grains, earth and a cow. These 8 precious gifts should be given to a brahmana by the dying person.  The wise have prescribed the gift of salt to be given freely and it opens the doorway to the other world.      (Garuda Purana Preta Khanda chapter 4 verses 7-8,14)

When he reaches the Vaitarani river, the boatman asks, “have you gifted a cow”, if he has he gets into a boat and crosses the terrifying river.  But if has not gifted the cow, he is brushed aside by the boatman and is forced to swim the river.  In the river he is bit by birds with sharp beaks, ants, etc.  The gift of a cow at the time of death serves as a relief for the deceased.    (G.P.   P.K. Ch 5 verses 123-126)

Sesame seeds, iron and salt pleases Yamaraj, the gift of cotton wards off dangers from ghosts, the gift of a cow enable the giver to cross all difficulties and save him from the threefold afflictions, the gift of gold and grains yields happiness in the afterlife and the gift of earth (plot of land) one shall never experience any torture or distress in hell.     (G.P.   P.K. Ch30 verses 12-16)

If a healthy man makes this gift its efficacy is increased 1000 fold, if a sick man makes the gift its efficacy is only a 100 fold. If a thing is gifted on behalf of the dead by his son, the gift is indirect and its efficacy is rendered normal. Hence gifts should be made by one’s own self.   (G.P.   P.K.  Ch47 verses 37-38)

On weeping : - One should not weep.  If they weep and spit phlegm the soul of the dead person is compelled to eat that.                       (G.P.     P.K.  Ch15 verse 58)

Upon death: - The soul without the body is like a flame without fire. After leaving the earthly body, the soul immediately obtains an airy body. In that action less body he moves in air only. Pindas are offered unto the airy body of the deceased. Whatever pinda the sons give him during the 10 days the same unites the Vaayuja (airy) body with the pindaja (form made from pindas) body. If the pindaja body is not there the Vaayuja body suffers. (G.P. P.K.  Ch10 verses 72-83)
He should offer six pindas on the day of death in the serial order. By gifting away the 6 pindas, the body achieves sanctity and fitness to be sacrificed in the fire. Otherwise, the six presiding deities of the pindas, cause large-scale destruction.     (G.P.     P.K. Ch15 verse 30-39)
Until the funeral rites are properly performed the dead man, ever hungry, roams about day and night in the form of airy matter.   (G.P.   P.K.  Ch13 verse 23)

“If the funeral rites are not performed properly”, he (the deceased) returns to his home, stays on the roof and watch the activities of his kins. He then causes diseases and grief to his relatives.   (G.P.     P.K.  Ch 20 verse 8)

If the funeral rites are not performed in the prescribed way, the soul of the deceased (in rebirth) deviates from the righteous path and falls in the company of the wicked.   (G.P.   P.K.  Ch 20 verse 42)

The 10-day observance of aashauca (impurity): - The sons and relatives of the deceased should observe aashauca for 10 nights.  For 10 days, without intermittence, the son should offer pinda and pour handful of water in favour of the deceased.   (G.P.     P.K.  Ch15 verse 61-62)

He should offer nine pindas in nine days i.e. one pinda on each day. After giving the tenth pinda, one becomes pure after the night expires.  (G.P. P.K. Ch 5 v.  18-19)

With the offering of ten pindas (in 10 days) by the descendants of the deceased the soul acquires a new body.   (G.P.     P.K.  Ch 34 verse 44)

In death impurity last for 10 days, O bird (Garuda).    (G.P.    P.K.  Ch 39  verse12)

If the soul is not propitiated duly during the 10 days it will have to wander in the ether without food, agitated by hunger.  (G.P.   P.K.  Ch 34 verse 33)

The 11 th day puja : - The sharaddha on the eleventh day is common to all castes. After performing the eleventh day shraddha they become free from impurity accruing from death. On the eleventh day, the pinda are offered to the deceased. The sixteen sharaddhas to be performed on the eleventh day are in anticipation of the different forthcoming shraddhas.   (G.P.    P.K.  Ch 34 verses 38-40, 52-53)

The 13 th day puja : - As long as the pindas are not merged, one remains impure. The dead man gets a new appellation (name, designation) after the merge. The twelfth day after death is appropriate for the sapinda rite. No joyous ceremony such as marriage, etc. can be performed if the householder dies and the sapinda has not been performed.     (G.P.     P.K.   Ch 26 verses11-13)
Once sapindya is completed, the pretahood ends. On the thirteenth day, he is captured by Yama’s attendants. So in 348 days he reaches Yama’s city, being dragged by Yama’s servants.      (G.P.     P.K.  Ch 5 verses78-89)

On the eleventh day and the twelfth, the soul of the dead eats to his fill. While offering gifts of lamp, food, water, etc. to the deceased one should mutter the name of the preta. Whatever is offered to the deceased, should be done by the name of the preta, for doing so gives delight to the deceased. On the thirteenth day, the soul of the dead is taken to the High Way. Now, he assumes a body born of the pinda and feels hungry day and night.         (G.P.    P.K.  Ch 15 verses 74-76)

Feeding the Brahmanas : - Whosoever be the brahmana invited for the feast, they (the forefathers) enter his body, eat and return to their abode. During the period of Shraddha, Yama release even the ghosts and the forefathers staying in hell who being hungry run to the mortals to receive the offerings made by their relatives. They repent for their misdeeds while they desire to be served with milk-rice, by their  descendents.  Therefore   the   descendents should gratify them with   the milk-rice.        (G.P.     P.K.   Ch 10 verses 26-30)

Gifts to the brahmana on the 13th day : - An umbrella, shoes, clothes, a ring, a water-jar, a stool and a vessel – these seven are called padas.

Umbrella – There is terrible heat on the way which scorches the deceased. By the gift of the umbrella, the deceased receives shelter of shade and feels comfortable.

Shoes – the deceased passes over the sword-edged forests, mounted on a horse.  On Asipatravana Naraka the sands are very hot and sinners have to dash over the hot sands. But by donating sandals the deceased is mounted on a horse.

Clothes – The messengers of Yama becomes very propitious and courteous by this gift and when satisfied they do not torment the deceased along the way.

Ring – The messengers of Yama wield terrible weapons and they run here and there. By the gift of a ring they vanish from the presence of the deceased and they allow him to travel at his own pace.

Water-jar – the deceased gets enough water on the way, which is full of heat, devoid of air and water.

Stool (seat -Asana) – The deceased obtains tasty meals in the interval of time while he walks over the path at his leisure.

A vessel –    (G.P.     P.K.  Ch 18 verses 16-24)


The 1-year ceremony: - At the end of the year he (the deceased) eats the annual shraddha offered by his relatives. In the shraddha of the 11th or 12th month many brahmanas should be feasted because then the deceased is very hungry.                                                                  (G.P.     P.K.   Ch 5 verses 140 & 152)

Those who worship the forefathers, deities, brahmanas and fire, in fact worship Me who am the soul of all beings. By performing Shraddha according to the means and method, the man pleases the universes as far as Brahmaloka.   (G.P.     P.K.  Ch 10 verses 59-65)


 A few frequently asked questions: -

Q: Is there a need to do a 40-day ceremony after birth or death?

A: Definitely not! There is no such observance in our scriptures. But in the Sat Kriya Sara Dipika (page 150) 10 days for a brahmana and 30 days for a non-brahmana contamination period is observed.

Q: Do we have a three-day Havan after death in our scriptures?

A: This is a concoction and not prescribed in our scriptures. Please read top of page 3. If one does this then he will incur the wrath of the deceased. By the 3rd day when one offers the daily pinda only up to the neck is formed. The new subtle body of the deceased is only formed in 10 days, thus the new body is incomplete.

Q: Does the widow have to wash off her sindoor (bindhi) on the death of her husband?

A: There is no scriptural backing for such a ritual. However, the widow ceases using the sindoor in the traditional manner.

            Compiled (for the upliftment of  Sanatan Dharma)
by Purohit Narottam dasa