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Burial Traditions From Around The World

Every culture has its own way of saying farewell to the deceased. Flowers, life insurance and headstones seem commonplace to Western cultures, but in some parts of the world, these funeral rites, rituals and sacred memorials have grown into elaborate, beautiful and bizarre displays.

Famadihana - Madagascar

Some cultures choose to celebrate rather than mourn their dead. In Madagascar, the people of Merina unearth their dead to throw them a dance party.

Every seven years, the dead are unearth, celebrated and redressed. The parties become so big, the family is often bankrupt by the event, even attracting local vendors and food stalls.

On the final day, the ancestor is paraded around then reburied with everything they will need for another seven years, including food, cash and alcohol.

Fantasy Coffins - Ghana

Some cultures allow the dead to be buried with their favorite possessions. In Teshi tradition, the deceased are sent off in a custom built coffin embodying their favorite things in life.

An avid fisher might have his coffin the shape of a giant colorful fish where a businessman might be interned inside a half scale Mercedes. While originally reserved for only the elite, since 1960, custom coffins have become a standard affair for the Ga people.

Sky Burial - Tibet and Mongolia

In Buddhist tradition, the spirit departs completely from the body. With no further use for it, the body is place on a hillside or mountain top to decompose and feed animals in the area.

This is seen as the deceased’s final act of kindness. Even the yak used to transport the body is set free after. The tradition is thousands of years old, and an estimated eighty percent of the Tibetan populous choose it for themselves.

Ngaben - Bali

In Bali tradition, the deceased soul is trapped inside the body until it can be set free.

When someone dies, the family treats the body as though they are merely sleeping, continuing to care and provide food for it. Only once the family has completed the construction of an elaborate coffin is the body removed from the house.

This process often takes three days, sometimes longer depending on the complexity of the casket. As the body is carted to its funeral pyre, the procession moves in a zigzag pattern, to confuse evil spirits that might attempt to follow them.

Canao - Philippines

The Ifugao people of the Luzon Island in the Philippines are in no rush to bury the deceased. In fact, they host ceremonies and festivals for up to eight days while the body is left on display.

Often propped up in their favorite chair outside their house and tied in place, they are dressed in rags to avoid attracting jealous spirits. The deceased spirit is said to wander freely to the afterlife and back, eventually making the full transition into death.

After the burial, the body is unearthed two years later where the bones are cleaned and often placed in a shrine inside the family house.