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Well there are many theories, Stories and angles for this question’s answer.  I will try to give all the possible answers here.

I will take references from the Buddhist Bardo Thodol and the Hindu Garuda Purana to answer this question. The jeeva (spirit) exits out of the body at the time of death and for 11 days, it remains as a Pretha, after which it would proceed to the abode of Yama for his final judgement. A pretha is basically a ghost. Like humans, ghosts experience all kinds of emotions like anger, lust, and hunger but they do not have a physical body or a container to satiate those emotions or to let them out. During these 11 days, it is said that the ghost would be extremely attached to its previous body and family. Especially during the first three days, the ghost of the human remains in a state of confusion failing to understand its existence outside the body, which lies inert and lifeless. Due to the physical attachment to the body, they say, it constantly tries to get back into the body. This is the reason why Hindus insist to burn the dead body before three days.

Fire is considered holy in Hinduism. It burns away everything until nothing remains. On the other hand, burying is a very slow process of dissolving the five elements inside the body back into the five elements of the cosmos. By cremating the body, the physical remnants of the ghost are entirely wiped out from the face of earth, so that the ghost may continue with its journey forward after the 11 days. This also reduces the possibility of remaining as a ghost on the physical plane, for an extended period of time.

Garuda Purana mentions that people who experience untimely and unnatural deaths (due to accidents, suicides, etc) and bodies that do not get cremated as per the rites, remain as ghosts for a long time. This is because the physical body is considered a container of spirit and as long as it remains on earth, the essence and energy of the individual’s life still remains over. This is also the reason why in Hinduism, the bodies of great yogis, saints and sages are never burnt but instead buried and on top of it, they install a Shiva linga or make it a place of worship. The body of the sage or saint was a container of divine spirit and by burying it we let the divine energy or essence of the yogi’s physical existence, influence the people around it, positively.

Another story From Wiki.Answers

Hindus believe in the soul being indestructible; and that death symbolises end of the existence of a person’s physical being, but the start of a new journey for the soul. This soul then reincarnates in some other life form, and passes through the same cycle of taking birth, growing and eventually meeting death- only to begin the cycle afresh.
Cremation of a person’s dead body is therefore, supposed to rid the departed soul of any attachments to the body it previously resided in.
Also, a traditional belief among Hindus says that a person’s body is composed of 5 elements- earth, fire, water, air and sky. The cremation ceremonies of Hindus are directed towards returning the body to these elements. The body is progressively returned to earth, air, sky and fire by burning it under skies; and the ashes are respectfully collected and poured in a river.
It is said that excessive mourning over a deceased prevents the soul from being completely detached from its loved ones, and keeps it from undertaking its new journey- that of taking up a new life. Cremation (and subsequent ceremonies in mourning) help to remove most of those things that can act as a reminder for the person’s existence, and thereby also assist the family in getting over the loss.

This might be a scientific approach to the question :
A Human Being does not always die from old-age, he may die due to diseases. If he is burnt, the micro-organisms in his body will die (no pathogen survives at the temperature of fire). Thus, burning of a body after a person is dead preventing it from being a source of spread of any disease.

Also, isn’t it better to burn a body rather than let it rot naturally? Hindus also do not believe in burying the body because frankly, every tomb occupies space.

Not everyone in Hinduism is cremated. Very young children are  not cremated, rather buried because they do not have an ego. They don’t even understand attachment to life yet.

1st Story: Vamsi Emani
2nd Story : Wiki.Answers

Barbarik was the grandson of Bhima and the son of Ghatotkacha. Barbarik was supposed to be a brave warrior having learnt the art of warfare from his mother. Lord Shiva pleased with Barbarik’s talent as a warrior granted him a Three special arrows. He also got a special bow from Lord Agni (God of Fire).

It is said that Barbarik was so powerful that according to him the war of Mahabharata could end in 1 minute if he alone was to fight it. The story goes like this:

Before the war started, Lord Krishna asked everyone how long would it take for them to finish the war alone. Bhisma replied it would take 20 days. Dronacharya said it would take 25 days. Karna said it would take 24 days whereas Arjuna said it would take him 28 days.

Barbarik had expressed his desire to watch the war of Mahabharata to his mother. His mother agreed to let him go watch it, but asked him before leaving as to which side he would join if he felt the urge to take part in the war. Barbarik promised his mother that he would join the side that was weaker. Saying this he set up on the journey to visit the battlefield.

Barbarika Krishna having heard of Barbarik and wanting to examine Barbarik’s strength disguised himself as a Brahmin came in front of Barbarik. Krishna asked him the same question about how many days would it take to finish the war if he were to fight it alone. Barbarik replied it would take him only 1 minute to finish the battle if he was to fight it alone. Krishna was surprised at this answer of Barbarik considering the fact that Barbarik was walking towards the battlefield with just 3 arrows and a bow. To this Barbarik explained the power of the 3 arrows.

  • The first arrow was supposed to mark all the objects that Barbarik wanted to be destroyed.
  • The second arrow was supposed to mark all the objects that Barbarik wanted to be saved.
  • The third arrow was supposed to destroy all the objects marked by the first arrow OR destroy all the objects not marked by the second arrow.

And at the end of this all the arrows would come return to the quiver. Krishna eager to test this out asked Barbarik to tie all the leaves of the tree that he was standing under. As Barbarik started meditating to perform the task, Krishna took one leaf from the tree and placed it under his foot without Barbarik’s knowledge. When Barbarik releases the first arrow, the arrow marks all the leaves from the tree and eventually starts revolving around Lord Krishna’s feet. Krishna asks Barbarik as to why the arrow is doing this. To this Barbarik replies that there must be a leaf under your feet and asks Krishna to lift his leg. As soon as Krishna lifts his leg, the arrow goes ahead and marks the remaining leaf too.

This incident scares Lord Krishna about the phenomenal power of Barbarik. He concludes that the arrows are truly infallible. Krishna also realizes that in the real battlefield in case Krishna wants to isolate someone (for eg the 5 Pandavas) from Barbarik’s attack, then he would not be able to do so, since even without the knowledge of Barbarik, the arrow would go ahead and destroy the target if Barbarik intended so.

To this Krishna asks Barbarik about which side he was planning to fight for in the war of Mahabharata. Barbarik explains that since the Kaurava Army is bigger than the Pandava Army and because of the condition he had agreed to with his mother, he would fight for the Pandavas. But to this Lord Krishna explains the paradox of the condition he had agreed with his mother. Krishna explains that since he was the greatest warrior on the battlefield, which ever side he joins would make the other side weaker. So eventually he would end up oscillating between the two sides and destroy everyone except himself. Thus Krishna reveals the actual consequence of the word that he had given to his mother. Thus Krishna(still disguised as a Brahmin) asks for Barbarik’s head in charity to avoid his involvement in the war.

After this Krishna explains that it was necessary to sacrifice the head of the greatest Kshatriya in order to worship the battlefield and that he regarded Barbarik as the greatest Kshatriya of that time.

Before actually giving his head, Barbarik expresses his desire to view the forthcoming battle. To this Krishna agreed to place Barbarik’s head on top of the mountain that overlooked the battlefield. At the end of the war, the Pandavas argued amongst themselves about whose was the greatest contribution to their victory. To this Krishna suggests that Barbarik’s head should be allowed to judge this since it has watched the entire war. Barbarik’s head suggests it was Krishna alone who was responsible for the victory in the war. His advice, his strategy and his presence was crucial in the victory.

Post Courtsy: Vikram Bhat
Image courtesy : Zayplay

The city of Kashi is famous for the shrine of Kaal Bhairav, the kotwal of Kashi or the policeman of Varanasi. His presence evokes fear, no different from some of our policemen. He has a thick moustache, rides a dog, wraps himself in tiger skin, wears a garland of skulls, has a sword in one hand and in another, holds the severed head a criminal.

People go to his shrine to do jhaad: sweeping of hex. Hex means the disruption of one’s aura through witchcraft (jadoo-tona) and malefic gaze (drishti or nazar). Black threads and iron bracelets are sold in shops around the temple, offering Kaal Bhairav’s protection to the devotee.
The story goes that Shiva took the form of Bhairava to behead Brahma who became arrogant after creating the world. Brahma’s head seared into Shiva’s palm and he wandered the earth chased by Brahma-hatya, the infamy of killing the creator.

Shiva finally descended from Kailas southwards along the river Ganga. A point came when the river turned north. At this point, he dipped his hand in the river, and Brahma’s skull became undone and Shiva was thus liberated form Brahma-hatya. This became the site of the famous city of Avimukta (site where one is liberated) which is now called Kashi. It is said that the city stands on Shiva’s trident. Shiva stayed here as the guardian, driving away all those who threaten the city, protecting its inhabitants.

The idea of eight Bhairavs guarding the eight directions (four cardinal and four ordinal) is a common theme in various Purans. In the south, many villages have the shrine of 8 Vairavar (local name for Bhairav) in the eight corners of the village. Bhairava is thus acknowledged as the guardian god.

In many Jain temples, Bhairav stands along with his consort, Bhairavi, as a guardian god. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, one hears of Kala-Bhairav and Gora-Bhairav, the black and white guardians, who watch over shrines of the Goddess. Kala-Bhairav is more popularly known as Kaal, the black (Kala) referring to the black hole of time (Kaal) that consumes everything. Kaal Bhairav is associated with alcohol and wild frenzy. By contrast, Gora Bhairav or Batuk Bhairav (the small Bhairav) is visualized as a child who likes to drink milk, maybe laced with bhang.

The name Bhairav is rooted in the word ‘bhaya’ or fear. Bhairav evokes fear and takes away fear. He reminds us that fear is at the root of all human frailties. It is fear of invalidation that made Brahma cling to his creation and become arrogant. In fear, we cling to our identities like dogs cling to bones and their territories. To reinforce this message, Bhairav is associated with a dog, a symbol of attachment, as the dog wags its tail when the master smiles and whines when the master frowns. It is attachment, hence fear and insecurity, that makes us cast hexes on people and suffer from hexes cast by people. Bhairav liberates us from all.

Credits: Devdutt Pattnaik (Seven secrets of shiva)

Fascinating Stories about Lord Shiva Ep III - Shiva fight with Narasimha avatara - hindufaqs.com

Perhaps one of the least known stories about Shiva is his fight with Narasimha avatara of Lord Vishnu in the form of Sharabha. One version says he killed Narasimha! Another says Vishnu assumed another superhuman form Gandaberunda to fight Sharabha.

The mythical creature Sharabha shown here is part-bird and part-lion. Shiva Purana describes Sharabha as thousand-armed, lion-faced and with matted hair, wings and eight feet. In his clutches is Lord Narasimha, whom Sharabha slays!

Fascinating Stories about Lord Shiva Ep III - Shiva fight with Narasimha avatara - hindufaqs.com
Fascinating Stories about Lord Shiva Ep III – Shiva fight with Narasimha avatara – hindufaqs.com

First, Vishnu assumed the form of Narasimha to slay Hiranyakashipu, an asura (demon) king, who was terrorizing the universe and devotee of Shiva.The Shiva Purana mentions: After slaying Hiranyakashipu, Narasimha’s wrath was not appeased. The world trembled, fearing what he might do. The Devas (the gods) requested Shiva to tackle Narasimha. Initially, Shiva brings forth Virabhadra, one of his terrifying forms, in order to calm Narasimha. When that failed, Shiva manifested as the human-lion-bird Sharabha. Shiva then assumed the Sharabha form. Sharabha then attacked Narasimha and seized him up until he was immobilized. He thus quelled Narasimha’s terrifying rage. Narasimha became a devotee of Shiva after being bound by Sharabha. Sharabha then decapitated and de-skinned Narasimha so Shiva could wear the hide and lion-head as a garment. The Linga Purana and Sharabha Upanishad also mention this mutilation and murder of Narasimha. After the mutilation, Vishnu assumed his normal form and retired to his abode, after duly praising Shiva. It was from here on that Shiva came to be known as “Sharabeshamurti” or “Simhagnamurti”.

This myth is particularly interesting because it brings to forth the past rivalries between Shaivites and Vaishnavites.

The Vaishnavites have a similar story of Vishnu transforming into Gandaberunda to fight Sharabha, in yet another bird form: a 2 headed eagle.

Credits: Wikipedia
Harish Aditham