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Firth, Shirley (1994) Death, dying and bereavement in a British Hindu community. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis explores beliefs and practices concerning dying, death and bereavement in the Hindu community in Westmouth (a pseudonym), with the aim of furthering understanding of Hindu belief and practice, particularly for medical and social work professionals. The Hindu model of a good death may be difficult to facilitate in British hospitals if medical staff are unaware of Hindu needs and if communication is inadequate. Funerals are arranged by professionals rather than the family, and there are delays because of bureaucracy, post mortems or lack of space in the crematorium. Priests, when available, may not be accustomed to conducting funeral rituals, and have to work within constraints of time and place, with more of the funeral taking place in the home than would be the case in India. All this has caused major changes in the traditional patterns of death rituals and mourning. Despite these changes there is strong family and community support at times of crisis, reinforcing social bonds and religious and cultural traditions. Religious beliefs help to make sense of the experience. This thesis has three parts. Part I sets the context of the study, fieldwork and methodology, introducing the Hindu community in Britain and in Westmouth. Beliefs about death, the afterlife, and the good and bad death are discussed. Part II explores nine stages of Hindu death rituals, from before death to the annual sraddha, comparing scriptural sources with practice in India and Britain to elucidate areas of change and continuity. Part III examines issues of hospital deaths and bureaucracy, mourning, and psychological aspects of bereavement. Hindus cope with and adjust to loss most satisfactorily when they are empowered to follow their chosen practices, have adequate social support, and find religious meaning in their understanding of death. Finally the implications of this research for Hindus themselves and for professional health care workers in Britain are examined.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:04

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