For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
There are diverse cultures in the world. People follow different cultures and rituals in different parts of the world, as that defines the essence of the region. Some tribes, groups or set of people are known for their unusual cultures and which, draws the attention of the rest of the world. Madagascar is one such place, where people carry out a weird funerary ritual called Famadihana, in which they dance with the dead.
What Is Famadihana?
Famadihana, is a bizarre funerary ritual practiced by the people of Madagascar. In this, they dig out the bodies of their dead people and dance with them. Many places follow a different funerary ritual that is not similar to the west, which is burying the dead bodies.
Some people follow cultures and rituals that may seem bizarre, but they are of pretty much significance to the local people. One such ritual is Famadihana. The Malagasy people who practice this unusual funerary ritual, form an ethnic group that comprises of almost all of the people dwelling in the giant island of Madagascar, Africa.
What Happens In Famadihana?
In this funerary ritual, which roughly translates to ‘turning of bones’, the Malagasy people dig out the graves of their ancestors and bring the body out. They wrap the bodies with fresh cloth. After re-wrapping, they carry the body to the streets and celebrate with dancing on live music.
Animals are sacrificed and the meat is eaten as a feast by the family members and guests. The elders explain the significance of this ritual to the younger generations of Malagasy.
Significance Behind This Ritual
Every ritual is significant to the people it is practiced by. There is some or the other historical importance associated with the rituals that the people practice. Apparently, Famadihana is a ritual revolving around the dead, yet it is celebrated with dance, music and food.
It takes place once in every 7 years, with a belief that the dead can join the spirit world of their ancestors only when their bodies decompose completely. Additionally, they believe that their bodies are made from the ancestor’s bodies, which is why it is all the more important to care for the dead, so that they have a peaceful afterlife. This ritual is claimed to have emerged in the early 17th century, the belief system of Malagasy people is quite ancient.
This bizarre ritual is so important for the Malagasy people that when early colonial missionaries reached Madagascar, they tried to force the Malagasy people to abandon it, but it somehow managed to survive. In the beginning of 20th century, even the Catholic church ceased objections on this ritual and declared its significant for the locals.
Madagascar’s declining economic conditions have lead the people to give up on various rituals. Famadihana, requires the sea bodies to be wrapped in silk cloth, and with the price hike in silk, this ritual is on a decline as well. However, the most traditional families in Madagascar, still manage to do this ritual as a mark of respect to their ancestors.
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