So a few weeks back one of the teacher's on staff had a death in the family.His mother had died of pneumonia.As a sign of support the staff attended the funeral and of course I came along.This would be my first Muslim funeral.So my day went like this,The staff rode altogether to his home which is about a 1 1/2 hr drive north from the school, which goes through a bad dirt road. I couldn't believe that this teacher goes all that way everyday to get to work.When we got to his home where the funeral ceremony was taking place, everything was already in full swing. The priest was deep into his speech. On the outside of the house was an open air shed with the body, in a open coffin, in the middle on a small riser.Well wishers were able to put small flower arrangements on top of the coffin.Close family members sat up close and personal around the body on the riser.After about an hour of the priest talking he led the eldest son in doing a prayer ceremony with the body and putting things in the coffin.Then close family were allowed to walk around the coffin and pay their last respects.This is when the outpouring of tears came.Women were wailing over the body. What really touched me is that the teacher's niece ad granddaughter of the deceased sat right by the body and began to cry so hard when she took her walk around the body.What was the worst though is when the men were trying to close the coffin in order to transport it to the cemetery a few women tried holding onto the coffin in order to stop them.
The coffin was placed in the back of a 9 passenger van which was held in place by a few men who rode in back.Lucky for me(not really) my van rode right behind the open back van carrying the coffin.As we were on our way to the cemetery one of the men in the van carrying the coffin was creating a trail of mustard seeds. What I later learned is that a trail is made in hopes that f the soul of the dead person follows them the people will be able to get back home before the soul can catch up with them since it has to eat the seeds one by one.
When we got to the cemetery I quickly realized that I and a fellow female teacher were the only women there.Apparently all the women stayed back at the house to grieve.Apparently in the past women were not even allowed to come to the cemetery.At the cemetery the body was taken to a viewing area first then moved onto a pile of wood to be burned.I could see them take the body out of the coffin then on top of the wood, pour ghee(clarified butter) and a heap of wood on top of the body.Guests were welcomed to throw rice and flowers on the body before final prayers were made and the entire pile burned.What was really interesting is the coffin was broken to pieces and put on the piel to be burned and apparently a family could donate the coffins to the cemetery and any less fortunate family could purchase the coffin for a very minimal cost.
I debated on whether to take my camera but I thought it may be inappropriate to take pictures while people were mourning but apparently not so, many people were clicking away getting up close and personal with the body. Now I know for future reference.
However the grieving process is not over yet.For 16 days family members come and stay with the immediate family who suffered the loss and stay day and night cooking for them since is customary for the immediate family not to cook. Because of these overnight stays our teacher has had little to no sleep .