Funeral Glossary

Last Rites Glossary

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Agarbatti = Incense stick

Agni deva = God of fire

Akash = Sky or Space

Antyeshti = Last Rights

Asthi = Bones (Remains after cremation)

Advance Planning = The act of making arrangements for final disposition, including a funeral, cremation, memorial, ceremony or other service/plans prior to death. Advance Planning can involve simply recording one's wishes (preplanning), or making financial arrangements (pre-paying). Also known as "preneed." 

Aerial Scattering = A form of scattering ashes that involves the use of planes, hot air balloons, or other airborne devices to disperse the cremated ashes while in active flight.

Affirmation or Celebration of Life Service = An alternate type of service that is highly personalized and follows no standard set of rules. It may be religious or non-religious, and can vary widely in content and format, depending on the plans and wishes of the deceased and their family.

Aftercare = A term used to refer to the various services (final arrangements) that are available from a funeral home or crematory following the death of a loved one.

Alternative Container = A container made of unfinished wood, fiberboard, pressed wood, or composition materials, which lacks fine finish or ornamentation. Alternative containers are often chosen for cremations due to their combustible nature. Alternative containers may also be the preferred container for direct burials or green burials.

Arrangement Conference = A meeting between the funeral director and the family or representative of the deceased for the purpose of setting up funeral arrangements.

Ashes = Also known as "cremated remains," the ashes are the material that remains after a body has been cremated.

Autopsy = Following death, an autopsy is a complete examination of the body by a doctor to determine the cause of death.



One who teaches by example. Usually refers to a prominent or exemplary spiritual leader.



Non-dual. Refers to the impersonality philosophy which unqualifyingly equates God, the soul and matter.



Not killing. Non-violence; respect for life.



One of the central characteristics of the Mahabharata. He is the leader for whom Krishna is charioteer in the Bhagavad Gita.



Economic development. The second aim of life.



Welcoming ceremony in which auspicious articles such as incense and lamps are offered to the deity or to saintly people.



Noble. Refers to those who know the spiritual values of life. Scholars say it refers to the original inhabitants of the Sindu region in India.



A place set up for spiritual development.



A stage of life (of which there are four) adopted according to material considerations, but ultimately as a means to spiritual realisation.

Atharva Veda


The fourth of the Vedas.



Self. Can refer to body, mind or soul, depending on context. Ultimately, it refers to the real self, the soul.



The sacred symbol and sound representing the ultimate; the most scared of Hindu words.


Avatara, Avtara

One who descends. Refers to the descent of a deity, most commonly Vishnu. Sometimes it is translated as incarnation which, although inaccurate, may be the best English word available.



Birthplace of Rama

Bhajan = Devotional songs

Brahma = Creator

Burial = Placing the body in the ground following death.

Burial Flag = A flag which is furnished by the government to honor the memory of the veteran’s service to his country, and is displayed during the funeral of the veteran.

Burial Permit = A legal document used for used to authorize burial, cremation, scattering or disinterment.

Bhagavad Gita


The Song of the Lord. Spoken by Krishna, this is the most important scripture for most Hindus. Tradition dates it back to 3000 BCE, though most scholars attribute it to the first millennium BCE. Considered an Upanishad.



Devotional hymn or song.



Devotion; love. Devotional form of Hinduism.



The path of loving devotion, aimed at developing pure love of God.



A Hindu deity, considered one of the Trimurti, and in charge of creative power; not be to be confused with Brahman or Brahmin.


Brahmacari, Brahmacharin

One in the first stage of life, a celibate student of Vedic knowledge. 


Brahmacarya Brahma ch(c)ari

The first ashrama or stage of life.



The ultimate reality, or the all pervading reality; that from which everything comes, in which it rests and into which it will eventually go.


Brahman, Brahmana

The first of the four varnas, the principal social groupings from which priests are drawn. Some writers, rather confusingly, use the spelling Brahman and the meaning only become clear in context. See also Brahman and Brahma

Chandan = Sandalwood

Chandra = Moon

Chita = Fire pit, set up with piles of wood to cremate body

Casket = A container designed for human remains, usually constructed of wood, metal, fiberglass, or plastic. It is often ornamented and lined with fabric.

Cemetery = Land that is reserved for graves, tombs, or cremation urns. Cemeteries may be privately or publicly owned.

Chapel: A large room located in a funeral home in which funerals or memorial services can be held.

Closed Casket = A visitation where the casket is closed, and the body is not available for viewing.

Columbarium = A Latin word, meaning “dovecote”. So-called because the way the funerary niches are placed, side-by-side, resembles a dovecote. An indoor “cemetery” that enables people to visit throughout the year, protected from the elements. In addition to the cremation urn or urns, small objects, photographs, and even children’s drawings are also often kept in the niche.

Committal Service = The portion of a ceremony that involves speaking last words just prior to burial.

Commemorative Service: A service or ceremony in memory of the deceased, without the presence of the body.

Cremains = A term occasionally used instead of "cremated remains" or "ashes."

Cremated Remains = Also known as "ashes," the cremated remains are the material that remains after a body has been cremated.

Cremation: The reduction of remains into small bone fragments through intense heat. The body is generally placed in a cremation container. There can be no doubts as to the identity of the deceased: each crematory (retort) can only receive one body at the time and deceased’s name is identified in three places. Cremation, which takes about two hours, takes place at temperatures of 900° C. The ashes are then put into a sealed urn. Sometimes, a small quantity of ashes may be put into a keepsake urn or cremation jewellery. Loved ones may thus keep a small amount of the ashes.

Cremation Jewelry = A special type of memorial jewelry which includes a small amount of the cremated remains (ashes) of the deceased.

Crematory or Crematorium = The facility where cremation of a human body takes place.

Crypt (funerary recess): A space in a wall built to receive a casket, then sealed and covered with a white marble plaque with an inscription about the deceased.



Member of a 'scheduled class' untouchable or outcaste whose occupation has to do with tanning leather.



General term for an untouchable or outcaste.



Disciple of a guru.



An untouchable or outcaste whose occupation is a sweeper.

Deepa = Oil or Ghee Lamp

Deva = God

Deva Loka = World of Gods

Death Benefits = When a person dies, the survivors may be eligible for pension and / or insurance benefits.

Death Certificate = A death certificate is required by law after a person dies. Two parties must complete the death certificate – a medical professional (either a physician, coroner, or medical examiner) who will certify the death by noting the cause of death, time of death and the identity of the deceased; and a samshan ghat who will confirm that the body was properly handled.

Direct Burial = A simple burial with no viewing or visitation, which usually involves only the transportation, care, of burial of the remains.

Direct Cremation = A simple cremation with no ceremony, viewing or visitation.

Donation “IN MEMORY OF” (In Memorium): A donation made to honour the deceased, made to a cause or an organization in particular. These donations may often be made in lieu of gifts.

Double Crypt: A crypt designed for two caskets lying side by side.

Disposition = This term refers to the placement of cremated or whole remains in their final resting place.

Darshan Shastras


Six systems of Hindu Philosophy - Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta and Meemansa.


Dussehra, Dassera, Dashara (and others)

Ten days. Also called Vijay Dashami. Celebrates the victory of Rama on the tenth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Jyeshtha. As is often the case with Hindu festivals, followers may interpret the festival differently, e.g. in connection with Durga (see Navaratri).



Religion or religious duty is the usual translation into English, but literally it means the intrinsic quality of the self or that which sustains one's existence.



A garment made of natural fibre (usually cotton or silk), worn by males, which covers the lower body and legs.






Light; usually a small lamp using ghee.


Diwali, Dipavali, Deepavali (and others)

The festival of lights at the end of one year and the beginning of the new year, according to one Hindu calendar.



Female deity. A form of the goddess Parvarti; wife of Shiva.



Dual. Refers to the personalistic philosophy that differentiates between God, the soul and matter.


Dvarka, Dvaraka, Dwaraka

Pilgrimage site on the west coast of India.

Embalming = The process of temporarily preserving a body through the use of chemical injections and topical applications to maintain a life-like appearance through the viewing and funeral ceremonies. Embalming should be considered a temporary measure that provides the family with time to complete funeral preparations, make travel plans, etc., rather than a long-term preservation of the body.

Eulogy = A speech delivered at a funeral service in honor of the deceased. The person delivering the eulogy is usually a close friend, priest, or family member, or other person of significance to the deceased.

Funeral = A ceremony that honors, celebrates, and remembers the life of a person who has died.

Full Couch Casket: A casket with a cover that opens completely.

Funeral Cortege OR Procession: The convoy of vehicles accompanying the hearse from the funeral service to the cemetery. May also apply to mourners following the casket as it is brought into and taken out of the church.

Funeral Director = At a funeral home, the staff member who works with a family to arrange burial, cremation or other funeral services.

Funeral Escort = Individuals who escort a funeral procession to the cemetery.

Funeral Monument OR Marker: Commonly referred to as headstones, they are usually made of metal or stone and include information such as the person’s name, date of birth and death, symbols and a tribute. They are called monuments when they stand upright.

Funerary Recess(crypt): A space in a wall built to receive a casket, then sealed and covered with a white marble plaque engraved with an inscription about the deceased.

Funeral Service = The services which may be used to care for and prepare human remains for burial, cremation or other final disposition. Funeral Services also include the arranging, supervising or conducting the funeral ceremony.

Ganga Jal = Holy water (Water from river Ganges)

Grave = An excavation in the earth for the purpose of burying the deceased.

Grave Marker = Grave markers, commonly known as headstones, tombstones, or gravestones, are placed over the grave to mark the resting place of the deceased

Graveside Service = Also known as a “committal service,” the graveside service is held at the gravesite before the body or urn is buried, or in the crematory chapel prior to cremation.

Green Funeral = A funeral designed around concepts, practices, and options that are considered "eco-friendly," for example, the use of biodegradable materials for burial containers, etc.



20th century spiritual and political leader.


Ganesh, Ganupati, Ganapati 

A Hindu deity portrayed with an elephant's head - a sign of strength. The deity who removes obstacles. 



The Ganges. Most famous of all sacred rivers of India.



Source of the river Ganges.



A group with Jati (caste) who force their members to marry outside the group.


Gristhi, Grhastha

The second stage of Hindu life; one who belongs to that stage; i.e. the householder (grihasti)



Rope; quality. Specifically refers to the three qualities of sattva(goodness), rajas (passion) and tamas (ignorance), which permeates and control matter.



Spiritual teacher, preceptor or enlightener.

Haldi = Turmeric

Havan = Worship of Agni

Half Couch Casket= A casket in which only half of the cover opens to show the body of the deceased from the waist up.

Hearse= A vehicle built to carry a casket from the funeral to the cemetery.



The monkey warrior who faithfully served Rama and Sita. Also called Pavansuta (son of the wind God).



Also known as Agnihotra. The basis of many Hindu rituals used at weddings and on other ceremonial occasions; the ceremony or act of worship in which offerings of ghee and grains are made into fire.

Havan kund


The container, usually square or pyramid-shaped, in which the havan fire is burned.



Stories with a moral



The festival of colours, celebrated in Spring.



Term often used interchangeably with havan.

Inda = Cooked rice balls

Immediate Burial = The direct burial of the deceased usually performed without embalming, or a formal viewing, visitation, or ceremony. A simple graveside ceremony may be held instead.

Inflation-Proof Contract = An inflation-proof contract must be funded 100% in advance. The prices of services and merchandise are guaranteed to be covered at the time of need, despite any cost increases due to inflation.

Interment of a Casket= The burial of a casket in a cemetery or the placement of it in a mausoleum, which is, in a way, an indoor cemetery. The casket is placed in a crypt (also called a funerary recess), which is a space in a wall, then sealed and covered with a white marble plaque engraved with an inscription about the deceased.

Interment Of Ashes (in an urn) = Burial of an urn in a cemetery. The urn may also be kept by the loved ones, or inurned in a columbarium. In Québec, many cemeteries do not bury ashes in the winter because the ground is frozen.

Inurnment= Interment of an urn inside a niche in a columbarium. Small objects, photographs, and even children’s drawings are also often kept in the niche.

Interment = The act of placing a body in a grave or tomb.

Irrevocable Contract = An irrevocable contract must be used solely for the purpose of paying for funeral expenses. Most people choose to make their pre-funding irrevocable because they want to ensure that the money will be there to pay for their funeral in the future.

Jal = Water



Sacred thread worn by Hindus who study under a guru.



The birthday of Krishna, celebrated on the eight day of the waning moon in the month of Badra.



The quiet or silent repetition of a mantra as a meditative process.



Caste is the usual translation meaning occupational kinship group.






The path of knowledge, that aims at liberation.

Kalash = Pot made up of copper or silver

Kumkum = Holy Red powder

Keepsake Jewelry = Keepsake jewelry, also known as funeral, memorial, or remembrance jewelry, is a deeply personal type of jewelry that honors the deceased and provides the wearer with a tangible remembrance of their loved one that can be kept close at all times.



Name given to that power of God which delivers justice - often represented by the Goddess Kali (a from of Durga).

Kali yuga


The fourth of the ages; the iron age or the age of quarreling and hypocrisy.



The third of the four aims of life - regulated sense of enjoyment.



Action. Used of work to refer to the law of cause and effect.



The path of self-realisation through dedicating the fruits of one's work to God.



Songs of praise; corporate devotional singing, usually accompanied by musical instruments.



Usually considered an avatar of Vishnu. One of the most popular of all Hindu deities in contemporary Britain. His teachings are found in the Bhagavad Gita.



Second of the four varnas of traditional Hindu society, the ruling or warrior class.

Loka = World



The goddess of fortune.

Moksha = Liberation or Salvation

Mass Card = In the Catholic religion, a Mass card indicates that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged.

Mausoleum = A public or private building specifically designed to preserve human remains. It is usually a permanent, above-ground final resting place.

Memorial Jewelry = Memorial jewelry, also known as funeral, keepsake, or remembrance jewelry, is a deeply personal type of jewelry that honors the deceased and provides the wearer with a tangible remembrance of their loved one that can be kept close at all times.

Memorial Service = A ceremony held to honor the deceased without the body being present. In the case of cremation, the urn containing the cremated remains may or may not be present.



The Hindu epic that relates the story of the five Pandava princes. It includes the Bhagavad Gita.



Circle of stringed beads of wood or wool used in meditation.



A circle, area or community / group.






That which delivers the mind. Refers to a short sacred text or prayer, often recited repetitiously.



The laws of Manu. An ancient and important text on Dharma, including personal and social laws.



Path. (see Jnana yoga, Karma yoga and Bhakti yoga)



Mother. Often associated with Hindu goddesses who represent shakti power.



Holy place associated with Krishna.



Not this. Usually, it refers to illusion, partially where the permanent soul identifies itself with temporary matter. e.g. the body, etc. It can also mean power.



Ultimate liberation from the process of transmigration, the continuous cycle of birth and death.



The head shaving ceremony. Performed in the first or third year of life.



form. The image or deity used as a focus of worship. 'Idol' is the wrongword and 'statue' may cause offense.

Natural Burial = Also known as “green burial,” natural burial practices are characterized by their simplicity and natural aspects. Advocates of natural burial believe in letting nature take its course at the burial site, with as little interference or disruption from the burial as possible.

Next of Kin = The deceased person's closest living relative.

Niche = A recessed space in a wall or in a columbarium used to place urns containing cremated remains. Small objects, photographs, and even children’s drawings are also often kept in the niche.



The Nine Nights Festival preceding Dassehra, and held in honour of the goddess Durga.



The cessation of material existence.

Obituary(death notice): A notice published in a newspaper or on the Internet that announces the death of a person, provides details about the funeral, lists the survivors and provides details about the person’s life.

Officiant = The person who leads the funeral or memorial service.

Outer Burial Container = Also known as a "vault" or "grave liner", this is a structure made of concrete, metal, or wood that supports the casket in the ground and helps to keep the grave from collapsing.

Pinda = Cooked rice balls

Pindadaana = Donation or offering Pinda

Pitru (Pitre’) = Forefathers

Pitru Loka = World of Forefathers

Pooja (Puja) = Worship

Praayashchitta = Firm Commitment

Preta = Dead Body

Preta loka = World of dead/ ghosts

Prithwi = Earth

Puncha = Five

Pall Bearer = A person who helps to carry or escort the casket during a funeral.

Plot = A measured piece of land in a cemetery for which a family or an individual purchases interment rights. A plot generally contains two or more graves.

Preneed = The act of making arrangements for a funeral, memorial, ceremony or other service/plans prior to death. Advance planning can involve simply recording one's wishes (preplanning), or making financial arrangements (pre-paying). Also known as "Advance Planning." 

Prearrangements (preplanned funeral arrangements): Contract between a person and a funeral home that determines what should be done after that person dies: viewing, cremation, funeral.

Private Family Mausoleum: An above-ground structure, sometimes within a larger mausoleum, built to serve as a resting place for from two to twelve people, usually members of the same family.



Part of the supplementary Vedic scriptures, composed of animal stories with a moral.



The consort of Shiva, also known by other names such as Durga, Devi, etc..



A great devotee of Vishnu, connected with the festival of Holi.



Regulation of breath as a means of controlling the mind.


Prasad, Prasada, Prashada

Sacred or sanctified food.



A lecture or talk, usually based on the scriptures.



Worship. General term referring to a variety of practices in the home or Mandir.



Ancient. Part of the Smriti scriptures. Contains many of the well-known Hindu stories.

Coming Soon..

Rudra = Lord Shiva (destroyer of evil)

Register= A book to record the names of people who come to the funeral home to pay their respects. There is also space to record other information, such as the name, date of birth and death of the deceased, the name of the celebrant, the location of the final resting place, the time and date of the funeral, list of flowers received, etc.

Revocable Contract = A revocable contract can be cancelled or “un-funded” at any time, and the released funds can be used for any purpose.

Raja Yoga

Raj Yoga

Path of self-control and meditation to realise God.



Passion or creative potency, one of the three gunas (qualities of material nature).



A bracelet, usually made out of silk or cotton, tied to give protection and to strengthen the bond of mutual love.

Raksha Bandhan


The festival when woman tie a decorative bracelet on their brothers' wrists.



The incarnation of the Lord, and hero of the Ramayama. (Avoid using the variant 'Ram' for obvious reasons.



The Hindu epic that relates the story of Rama and Sita. composed by the sage Valmiki thousands of years ago.



The birthday festival of Rama.

Rig Veda

Rg or Rc Veda

The first scripture of Hinduism, containing spiritual and scientific knowledge.


Rsi, risi

A spiritually wise person. More specifically, one of the seven seers who received the divine wisdom.

Samskara = Sacraments

Sapindikarana = Joining of the Pinda

Shraadha =Rituals done after cremation

Shruddha = Faith, True loyal belief

Smashaan = Place for cremation

Surya = Sun

Swarg Loka = Heaven

Swarga = Heaven

Salon/Parlour= Room in a funeral complex where the family and loved ones come together.

Sympathy Card= Card sent to the family of the deceased to express condolences.

Scattering = The act of distributing the cremated remains (ashes) of the deceased as an act of remembrance.

Scattering Garden = A plot of land set aside for scattering the cremated remains. The scattering garden is usually owned by a cemetery or crematory.



One's regulated spiritual practices or discipline.



Holy man, ascetic.

Sama Veda


The Veda of chanting; material mainly from the Rig Veda, arranged for ritual chanting in worship.



The world - the place where transmigration (the soul's passage through a series of lives in different species) occurs.


Sanskar, Samskara

Sacraments designed to initiate a new stage of life. There is usually a total of sixteen such rites of passage (though many schools of thought do not practice them all).

Sanatan Dharma


The eternal or imperishable religion; also known as Vedi Dharma. Adherents often prefer this term to Hinduism since it characterises their belief in the revealed and universal nature of religion.



The state of renunciation, the forth stage of life.


Samyasin, Samnyasin

A renuciate who, having given up worldly affairs and attachments, has entered the forth stage of life, often as a mendicant.



Sacred language of the Hindu scriptures.



The power of knowledge, often represented by the goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning.



Goodness, or the potency to sustain and nourish; one of the three gunas.



Service, either to the divine or to humanity.



The religion of Hindus who are devotees of Shiva.



Energy or power, especially of a Hindu feminine deity.


Siva (many variants)

A Hindu god. The name means kindly or auspicious.



The annual festival celebrated in February / March in honour of Shiva. Also called Manashivaratri.



Ceremony in which Sanctified food is offered to the poor and needy in memory of departed ancestors.



Illustrious. Used as a title of respect, e.g. Shri Krishna. Also a respectable title for men. The feminine form is Shrimati (Mrs).



That which is remembered. Applicable to Hindu scripture other than the Vedas.



The divine consort of Rama.


Srti, Shruti

That which is heard. A term specifically applied to the four Vedas, including the Upanishads. Some Hindus believe that Smriti is subservient to Shruti but others consider it to have equal importance.



Short sayings or verses relating to various rituals, or encapsulating profound philosophical meanings.



Controller. Sometimes, more specifically, Goswami (one who can control his/her senses). An honourific title applied to a religious teacher or holy person, particularly a sannyasin.



From the Sanskrit for well-being; a mark of good fortune. The four arms signify the four directions (space), the four Vedas (knowledge) and the four stages (time) in the life cycle. Not to be confused with the Nazi symbol.

Tej = Fire

Tulsi = Holy Basil leaves

Totten Trust = Funds from a Totten trust or Payable On Death (POD) accounts are earmarked to cover anticipated funeral costs. When the covered person dies, the money passes automatically to a designated beneficiary without having to go through probate. The funds are intended to be used to cover funeral expenses, but the beneficiary has the freedom to use the funds however they wish.

Traditional Funeral = A traditional funeral service is held in the presence of the deceased. The body may be either in an open or closed casket. The funeral service usually takes place within two or three days of the death.



Ignorance or destructive potency; the lowest of the three gunas.



The three deities. Refers to BrahmaVishu and Shiva, who personify and control the three gunas. They represent and control the three functions of creation, preservation and destruction. This is not the same as the idea of Trinity, which should not be used.

Undertaker = Also known as the funeral director, this is the staff member who works with the family of the deceased to arrange the funeral, cremation, or other funeral services for the deceased.

Urn= A container in which the cremated remains are placed.

Urn Vault = A small reinforced container used to house a cremation urn that is buried in the ground.



Ceremony when the sacred thread is tied - to mark the start of learning with a guru.



To sit down near. A sacred text based on the teaching of a guru to a disciple. The Upanishads explain the teachings of the Vedas.

Vaikuntha = Heaven

Vayu = Air

Vidhi = Rituals

Vishnu = Lord supports Sustain life

Veteran = Someone who has served, as a member of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard).

Viewing/Visitation= an event that enables survivors and friends to see the body of the deceased in private, usually in a room in the funeral home.

Vigil = A Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral.



The religion of Hindus who are devotees of the god Vishnu.



The third of the four varna of Hindu society, composed of merchants and farmers.



The third stage of life, typified by retirement and asceticism.



Forest dweller. One who is in the third stage of life.


Banares, Benares, Kashi, Kasi

City of the river Ganges, sacred to Shiva. It is one of the holiest pilgrimage sites and also an ancient center of learning.



Colour. The four principal divisions of Hindu society. It is important to note that the word 'caste' refers strictly to sub-divisond within each varna, and not to varnas themselves.


Varnasrama Dharma

The system whereby society is divided into four varnas (divisions), and life into four ashramas (stages).

Varsha Pratipada


The day of Creation, celebrated as New Year's Day by many Hindus.



Knowledge. Specifically refers to the four Vedas, through any teaching which is consistent with the conclusions of these scriptures is also accepted as Vedic.

Vijay Dashmi

Vijaya Dashami

Another name for Dassehra.



A Hindu god. With Brahma and Shiva forms the Trimurti.



Vow. Often included abstention from certain foods.


Brindavan, Vrindavana, Brindaban

The sacred village connected with Krishna's pastimes as a youth.

Wake = A watch kept over the deceased, held the night before the funeral. It may last the entire night.

Coming Soon...



God of death

Yajur Veda


One of the four Vedas, dealing with the knowledge of karma.


Jamuna, Jumna

Tributary of the river Ganga (Ganges), considered by many Hindus to be the most sacred of all holy rivers.



Pilgrimage. Usually to the most important sacred place in India.



Communion; union of the soul with the Supreme, or a process which promotes that relationship. The English word 'yoke' is derived from yoga.



Age, or extended period of time, of which there are four.

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