Antyesti (अन्त्येष्टिः)

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The Saṃskāra to be performed at the end (of life), i.e. at the time of death of a person. The earlier fifteen Saṃskāras are performed while a person is alive. The last one, viz. Antyeṣṭi is performed after death of a person in order to get him a comfortable position. Antyeṣṭi is performed by sons.

जातस्य हि ध्रुवो मृत्युः ध्रुवं जन्म मृतस्य च।

तस्मादपारिहार्येऽर्थे न त्वं शोचितुमर्हति ॥ भगवद्गीता, २.२७॥

jātasya hi dhruvo mṛtyuḥ dhruvaṃ janma mṛtasya ca।

tasmādapārihārye'rthe na tvaṃ śocitumarhati ॥ Bhagavadgītā, 2.27॥

Śrīkṛṣṇa tells Arjuna during the great war of Mahābhārata – whoever is born has to die and one who is dead would be born, i.e. it is an unending cycle of birth and death. Therefore, you are not supposed to weep with regard to a thing that is inevitable.

People of Vedic tradition believe that the physical body is perishable whereas Ātmā (soul) is eternal / indestructible; there are Svarga (heaven) and Naraka (hell) that are caused by Karma (nemesis), viz. Puṇyam and Pāpam ; there is rebirth and an entity called Īśvara is running the universe.

After the death of a person, the near relatives would attain Aśaucam (impurity) for ten days. There is a lot of procedure to be followed right from burning the dead body to offering Daśadānāni (ten kinds of donations) among which is Godānam (donation of a milky cow with calf).

Procedures

Different procedures of Antyeṣṭi are prescribed for different people, i.e. a Brahmacārī (celibate), a Śrotriya (Vedic scholar), a Yati (a Saṃnyāsī), a virgin, a married woman, a widow, a widower etc. Pitṛmedha has to be performed by the son. For the first twelve months, a monthly death ceremony called Māsikam is to be performed. Then yearly death ceremony called Ābdikam has to be performed. At every step there are some exemptions for people who cannot meet the standard procedure for some reason or the other. Such are called Āpaddharma (the Dharma in a hostile situation).