Funeral Ceremony in Laos

I was strolling around Vientiane the last two days and happened to witness several buddhist funerals at one temple. It seems that Laotian Buddhist funeral ceremonies can range from simple to elaborate, but always end with the cremation of the deceased’s body.The following shots of the cremation ceremony were taken at three different occasions at the same temple.The ceremonies differed by the amount of decorations and people attending.

The procession starts with the coffin of the deceased arriving at the crematory site, led by Buddhist monks. White-robed nuns follow the monks and together, as they walk in a line, hold a ceremonial white cloth. Family members walk behind the nuns, while the funeral car holding the deceased’s coffin and friends of the deceased follow closely behind. The coffin is covered by a funeral tower, which it taken apart upon arrival.

Then the coffin is carried to the raised gravesite or pyre. Monks and family member circle the site with the coffin several times before the coffin is laid on top of the raised gravesite or pyre.Monks and family members are dripping juice of fresh coconut into the coffin. After a funeral tower, called the “mam” (funeral pyre) in Laotian, is placed over the raised coffin. A picture of the deceased is placed on the mam, flowers donations surrounding it. On three sides of the mam family members and dignitaries, the monks and nuns and the general public are seated. The funeral is ready to begin. The white ceremonial cloth that nuns were holding during the procession is tied to one of the corners of the mam. It is then placed in front of the female family members and nuns, who sit adjacent to the mam.

A master of ceremony is leading through the ceremony , beginning with a speech by a family member. The monks begin a longer prayer and chanting session, followed by an offering of flowers and candles to the deceased by the monks and nuns. The monks close this part of the ceremony with a final prayer. Family members then offer candles and flowers to the deceased. The ceremony ends with the lighting of the pyre by female family members. They also throw candies to children. When the mam is burning it becomes clear, that a lot of firewood is stacked underneath the mam to make sure, the body is burned. Only a few monks remain to collect the ashes later on. Looking at a wooden door of the temle it becomes clear, that this funerals rites are deeply rooted a in buddhism.

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