In Tibet there are four modes of disposing of the dead, viz. increination, throwing into the rivers and lakes, exposure on the summits of mountains, and cutting the dead bodies and giving them to the dogs to eat, which is the most flattering of all. The dogs of the environs devour the poor, but for the rich there are establishments with dogs for this purpose.—R. A. S. .7., vi., 1872-3.
In Tibet, the sovereign Lamas are deposited entire in shrines prepared for their remains, which are ever afterwards regarded as sacred, and visited with religious awe. The bodies of the inferior Lamas are usually burnt, and their ashes preserved in little metallic idols, to which places are assigned in their sacred cabinets. Ordinary persons are treated with less ceremony. Some are carried to lofty eminences, where they are left to be devoured by ravens, kites, and other carnivorous animals. But they also have places surrounded by walls where the dead are placed.
Mongols sometimes bury their dead ; often they leave them exposed in their coffins, or cover them with stones, paying regard to the sign under which the deceased was born, his age, the day and hour of his death, which determine the mode in which he is to be interred. For this purpose they con sult some books, which are explained to them by the Lamas. Sometimes they burn the corpse, or leave it exposed to the birds and wild beasts. Children who die suddenly are left by their parents on the road.—Timkowski's Pekin, ii. p.312.
In Spill, in the N.W. Himalaya, when a person dies, the body is sometimes buried, or burnt, or thrown into the river, or cut into small pieces and burnt. Admonitions are made over the body to the departed spirit, such as, Do not trouble yourself, you cannot enter it (meaning the dead body) ; in summer it quickly becomes corrupt, in winter it freezes and is too cold for you.' Amongst the Buddhist Burmese, whose religion teaches them to look on death as a release from the cares and troubles of the world, as a possible cessation of transmigrations and the longed-for arrival of annihilation, the cremation of the remains of friends, relatives, and teachers, are not seasons of grief ; the spectators are often able to look on them with joy. The Rev. Mr. Marks went to see a sick pupil, whose mother met him at the door. To„Mr. Marks' inquiry as to her child's state, she replied, He is well, he is well,' and skipping, half joyfully, half hysterically, before him, led him to ,an inner room, where the pupil lay dead, but the .bereaved mother, full of faith, was still able to say, He is well.' The remains of holy men, the -phoungye, are not soon removed. Their bodies placed in honey, sometimes for a year or more. ,One at a phoungye house in Kemmendine, adjoin ing the editor's dwelling-house, was kept in honey for a year, and then removed. In the process of embalming, the body is placed in honey for a few weeks, the intestines are then removed, and by spices, and the body is encased in a sheathing of wax, which is coated with lac, and this gilded with gold-leaf. The body is then left to dry on a staging, under a white umbrella, and finally the coffin is placed on a model of a kneeling elephant, made of wood and paper. On the day appointed for the funeral of the priest, a great crowd assembled, and, with two ropes attached to the car, one part of the multitude pulled it towards the place of cremation, another pulled against them, and, with shouting and laughter, drumming and uproar, the remains at length reached the burning place and were burned. Looking quietly at the opposing multitudes, their antagonism seemed a representation of some ancient idea of good and bad spirits battling for the dead. But the object of this struggling to draw the car onwards and to retard it is unknown.
In September 1870, the remains of the queen mother of Burma were burned between the inner and outer walls of the palace, to the north of the main entrance. A large space was enclosed by a fence or yazamat, in the centre of which the burning took place. Inside and outside of this, numerous temporary sheds were run up for the princes, queens, ministers, etc. Above, where the fire was to be placed, a lofty structure of bamboos was erected ; this was covered with white cloth. The body of the late queen-mother was laid out in state in one of the pavilions to the south side of the palace, the gardens being for the time open to all. The troops were under arms in the great square and other parts of the palace open to the public, a large space in front of the enclosure being kept clear for the king and his retinue. About 10 A.M., the first of the procession accompanying the coffin appeared at the inner gate of the palace, and slowly marched towards the pyre, all taking up their respective positions with order and regularity. Save the troops, all taking part. were in white ; but the numerous gilded palanquins, gold umbrellas, together with the splendid bier, with the white umbrellas joined to the green coats, red and gilt headpieces of the troops, with the numerous elephants, gaudily trapped, placed here and there, made the scene barbarously splendid. Following or preceding the bier were the princes and princesses, the queens with the Pakan Meng, the late king. He and the first queen, whose mother the deceased was, walked in front of the bier. About a quarter to eleven the great inner gates were again thrown open for the exit of the king and retinue. The king was seated in a large gilded palanquin, borne on the shoulders of some 40 or 50 men, and was accompanied by four of his daughters and one son, all young. He, like all the others, was dressed entirely in white. Advancing up to about ten yards from the front of the enclosure, the palanquin was halted, the retinue and guards filing off right and left, and forming a large hollow square. Prayers were said by several phoungye, the king gave directions as to the exact minute at which the cremation was to commence, the bearers turned round, the procession was re-formed, and moved inside the great gates, which were again partially closed, while drums, tom-toms, and cymbals were beaten, and trumpets (?) sounded, amidst a tumultuous noise. The queen, princes, Pakan Meng, etc. etc., returned to the palace, shortly after the cremation was completed, in the same order as they came out. The coffin was overlaid with gold to the extent of 7} viss, which was afterwards distributed among the phoungye, or to be applied to the building of a pagoda. Charcoal was employed at the burning of the body, and was kept at a red heat by numerous bellows placed all round. The whole of the body with the exception of a small part of the back of the skull was reduced to ashes, or at least consumed on the fire. This small piece, little bigger than a rupee, was placed in a gold cup closed by a lid studded with rubies, while the remains of the charcoal and ashes were placed in earthenware vessels to be carried to the river. The gold cup was confided to an official, who took his place in the hearse. Having arrived at the river bank, those deputed for the purpose entered two gilded boats lashed together, but a little apart, which were rowed out into the centre of the stream. Here a halt was made. The bearer of the gold cup, with it rolled up in his putzoe, jumped into the water, and while he was underneath let it go. At the same time the jars of ashes had their contents poured into the stream, the man was picked up, and there was an end of the ceremony.