Monday, April 28, 2008

Hindu cremation rites (including pitru-medha)

S’raaddham (archaeological evidence)

See notes on s’raadham, Hindu cremation rites (given below).

What has been found in Sembiyan Kandiyur is consistent with the practice of Pitru-medha described in As’valayana Grhya Sutra.

Post cremation Burial (Pitr-medha)

During the Vedic and early Grhya periods it was common to bury the incinerated bones of a deceased person in an urn. This was the pitr-medha ceremony. The Grhya-sutras of Asvalayana describe how the burned bones were to be collected on the third lunar day (tithi) after death. In the case of a man who had died, the bones were to be collected by elderly men and placed into a male urn. In the case of a woman, the bones were to be collected by elderly women and placed into a female urn. Urns were designed by their shape to be male or female. The performers of this ceremony were to walk three times in a counterclockwise direction around the bones while sprinkling milk and water from a particular kind of twig (sami). The bones were then placed into the urn as they were picked up individually with the thumb and fourth finger. First the bones of the feet were to be gathered and then successively the other bones were to be gathered working toward the head. After the bones had been purified and gathered they were sealed and buried in a secure location.

Megalithic period pottery found

T.S. Subramanian (The Hindu, 27 April 2008)

Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department leads excavation

— Photo: M. Srinath Significant finds: Pottery with graffiti marks found at Sembiyankandiyur village in Nagapattinam district.

CHENNAI: Pottery items including bowls, dishes and urns, from the Megalithic period, have been excavated at Sembiyankandiyur near Kuthalam in Mayiladuthurai taluk of Nagapattinam district by the Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department.

An important finding: eight urns aligned in a particular manner, three of them with human bones inside. These might be of members of one family, according to department officials. The pottery included black-and-red ware, black ware and red ware.

The site yielded a rich collection of pottery with graffiti marks. A few iron pieces were also found.

Archaeology Department officials estimated that the pottery belonged to the Megalithic period or the Iron Age, which can be dated between 300 B.C. and A.D. 100.

Earlier discovery

The discoveries were made at the site where in 2006 school teacher V. Shanmuganathan found a polished Neolithic celt (tool) that had engravings resembling the Indus script. This celt caused a stir in archaeological circles. It was T.S. Sridhar, then Special Commissioner of Archaeology, who noticed the engravings on the polished celt. A semi-polished celt was found nearby without engravings.

The Archaeology Department decided to excavate the Sembiyankandiyur site to find out its antiquity and fix the chronology. The excavations began on February 6. Four trenches were laid at the place where the celt with the engravings were found. The first trench was laid in the garden of Mr. Shanmuganathan, the second trench at Thoppumedu which belonged to Shanmugam, a retired physical education teacher, another in the backyard of the house of Muthappa and the fourth at Padayachi Kollaimedu.

Important findings from the trenches were bowls, dishes, broken urns, full-size urns and so on. Eight urns were found to be aligned in a particular manner, three of them with human bones. Some urns had ritual pots inside. Some pots and sherds have thumb-nail impressions on them.

Designs and markings

Full-shape pots had the graffiti depicting a fish, a ‘damaru’, sun, star and a swastika. Geometric designs and marks depicting fish, sun and star and graffiti marks are often found on black-and-red ware and black ware, with the symbols sometimes repeated.

The excavations at Sembiyankandiyur were done under the guidance of Dr. S. Gurumurthi, Principal Commissioner of Archaeology; Dr. S. Vasanthi, Archaeologist; M. Muthusamy, Curator of Tranquebar Museum; S. Selvaraj and P. Gowthamaputhiran, Archaeological Officers of Thanjavur and Coimbatore respectively.

Read this doc on Scribd: s'raaddha1

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