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Why should a person wear white clothes while attending or performing cremation?

Why should a person wear white clothes while attending or performing cremation
Why should a person wear white clothes while attending or performing cremation

Deepu Verma

06 May, 2024

Why should a person wear white clothes while attending or performing cremation

Cremation in the Hindu religion is the way to obtain incarnation or emancipation from the repeated cycle of the death and birth of the departed soul. Therefore, cremation plays a pivotal role in the dignified last rites and it is a decisive factor for paving the path of the departed one.

Besides the significance of rites, offerings, priests, prayers, and places, the clothes worn by the lead mourner as well as the attendees who are present in the cremation also play an essential role during the cremation ritual.

In this article, you can learn about the importance of "Clothes" in a Hindu cremation rite.

What should be the attire of a lead mourner who is performing the cremation rite?

According to Hindu cultural beliefs and faiths, the lead mourner who is performing all the dignified steps of the cremation rite should wear appropriate attire during the ritual.

Here are the points regarding the clothes selection of the lead mourner that must be followed and respected. 

  • The lead mourner chosen by the deceased's family to offer dignified cremation to the departed soul must wear new clothes.
  • The colour of his attire should be bright white and there should not be any spots or stains on it.
  • Usually, the sacred scriptures of the Hindu religion instruct the lead mourner to wear "A New White Dhoti" during the cremation but people who are uncomfortable in wearing it can choose "A new pair of White Kurta Payjama" also.
  • The lead mourner must have a bald head or shaved head with a "Shikha".
  • If the lead mourner belongs to the Brahmin community of Hinduism, he must wear the sacred white thread on his upper body part. This sacred thread is recognized as "Yagyipaveet or Janeu".
  • To cover the upper body part, the lead mourners can use a new white small piece of cloth if they have chosen dhoti for performing the cremation rite.

Why only white clothes are allowed in Hinduism for performing or attending the cremation ritual?

Well in India you can witness a contradiction between the colours considered ideal for the mourning phase or cremation ritual in Hinduism. But when we talk about the North Indian beliefs & faiths regarding last rites, "White" is ideal.

Here are some supporting causes behind the notion regarding the acceptance of the white in the last rites of a departed soul belonging to the Hindu religion.

  • The white depicts the painful emotion as well as peace. It is believed that by wearing white close family members and friends can offer abundant peace to the departed soul.
  • Another reason for choosing only white for the last rites or cremation rites is, that "White absorbs all the negativity present in the atmosphere". The cremation ground/crematorium/shamshan ghat holds a lot of negative energies, hence the followers of Hinduism are advised to choose white clothes while visiting such locations.
  • Not only the lead mourner but all the attendees should also wear white as they present close to the departed souls in the crematorium.

What should be the attire of a cremation ritual attendee?

In Hinduism, family members, close friends, colleagues, and neighbors visit the cremation ground to offer heartfelt homage to the departed soul. Here the attire or clothing of the attendees expresses their respect, sensitivity, and honor toward the departed soul.

Therefore the dressing of the attendees should comply with the following recommendations.

1. Choose a simple Indian traditional dress up instead of Western clothes-

The respectful and elegant dresses like plain sari, salwar kameez, and kurta pajama suit such sensitive and painful occasions like cremation and funerals in Hindu culture.

2. Pick the subtle colours over flamboyant ones -

As it is explained above peaceful colors offer respect and honor to the departed soul, the attendees should choose plain white for their attire. If there is an unavailability of plain white clothes, you can go with the cream, earthen brown, beige, and off-white clothes as well.

3. No place for revealing and fashionable dresses -

Wearing revealing dresses and choosing dark-colored clothes with heavy work or any additional flamboyance will be counted as disrespecting the departed soul as well as the deceased's family members.

4. Minimal ornaments or jewelry and no makeup -

Since the cremation ground is the place where close ones visit to express their grief, one must avoid any element in the dressing that depicts a sense of showing off. You can wear only essential ornaments but completely avoid makeup.

5. Covered head and simple footwear -

In some Hindu communities, it is considered inappropriate to visit cremation grounds without covering the head with a piece of cloth. Hence you can place a white handkerchief or "Dupatta" on the head before entering the cremation ground.

It is completely prohibited to wear fancy footwear like high heels and shoes etc in a Hindu cremation ritual. You can wear simple & flat footwear while visiting a cremation ground. At the main place where the cremation ritual is going on, only plain white socks are enough. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the lead mourner wear new clothes while performing the cremation ritual?

According to the texts and scriptures of the Hindu religion, the new clothes do not carry any worldly connection or attachment hence the lead mourner should wear the new clothes while performing cremation. Besides it, the new clothes are a way to express the dignity and honor towards the departed soul.:

Why only white clothes are chosen for attending the cremation ritual in Hindu culture?

The color white signifies peace, respect, sensitivity and comfort toward the departed soul. Apart from that, the white color can absorb all the negativity present in the cremation ground. Therefore the lead mourner as well as the attendees should prefer white over any other color.:

What is the right dress for a woman who is going to attend a Hindu funeral or cremation?

A plain white sari or salwar kameez is the best choice for the woman who is going to attend the last rite of a departed soul in the Hindu religion.:

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