"they built a funeral pyre"

Cremation pyre on the banks of a river
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCremation pyre on the banks of a river - Credit: Gregor Younger
In Hinduism, the body is seen as an instrument to carry the soul. In Hindu philosophy, the human body is a combination of five basic natural elements - fire, water, air, earth and ether. When one dies, the fire element ceases, and that living form retreats to the original state of creation. The fire used in cremation completes the fifth element.

A wooden structure or funeral

on paper depicting a deceased body being taken to a burning ground.
Public Domainon paper depicting a deceased body being taken to a burning ground. - Credit: British Museum
pyre is built, usually on the banks of a river, and the death body is placed on the pyre, which is then set alight. The remains from the cremation are usually submerged into the flowing water to complete the funeral rite. The destruction of the physical body through cremation (agnidagdhá) is believed to induce a feeling of detachment into the freshly disembodied soul and to enable its passage into the other realms. The Rig Veda contains a reference to the emerging practice of cremation, proving that this practice is as old as civilization.