This chapter treats the Ṛgvedic conceptions of death and what happens after death. It is very striking that several of the crucial concepts found in Classical Hinduism—karma and rebirth—are entirely absent from the Ṛgveda. What little the Ṛgveda says about what happens after death suggests that there is a world of the dead, presided over by Yama, the first to die and therefore king of the dead, and populated by the ancestors. The journey there is difficult, but, at least for those who arrive there, the realm of Yama is paradisal. The principal way of disposing of the dead was cremation, though burial is also mentioned. The institution of satī (widow-burning) is also not found in the Ṛgveda; the Ṛgvedic widow may ritual mount the funeral pyre but is called to return to life and indeed to remarriage.
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