Respect for family and ancestors is a pillar of Vedic culture the Hindu religion is filled with reverential worship and rituals to Gods Goddess and Ancestors; departed and loved ones. Most of these rituals are aimed to ease the journey of the person towards final salvation Moksha. The Hindu way of life covers concepts of life and the afterlife in one continuous and seamless process. Hinduism has unique and complex rituals related to last rites. Last rites rituals in Hinduism are almost same throughout the Indian sub-continent. It is called Pind Daan, it is one of the most important Hindu rites. Pind Daan is considered as a way to salvation, performing Post death ceremony in Hindu family is considered a must to do obligation for every Hindu.
The custom of Pind Daan dates back to the time when the Vedas were written. The word "pind" means a body. The word "daan" denotes charity or giving. Therefore, Pind Daan means giving charity to the body of the deceased.
When a person dies, the soul leaves the body. To end the relationship between the soul and the body, the body is consigned to flames where it is converted into ashes. These ashes are consigned to a holy river like the Ganga if you cannot make your trip to Ganga than to one of the rivers near you. Thereby, nothing remains of the physical body, but the soul waits for a new body. It is said that it takes ten days for the deceased to enter a new situation. On the 11th and 12th day the food is offered to the deceased through the shraddha ceremony to be eaten. It is believed that on the 13th day the messengers of death usher the deceased into Yamaloka, the abode of Yama. When the last rites are performed with devotion, the deceased enters Yamaloka happily, after which he may be given a pleasant or uplifting situation. To Hindus this is important. Therefore, the food (pind daan) that is offered is accepted by the deceased through the scent of smell, not that it is actually or physically eaten. The scent of smell and sound, and the transfer of emotions can still be felt by the deceased from those who remain on the physical plane. The pind daan and the shraddha ceremony are utilised to serve this purpose.
It is explained in the Yoga Vashistha, (3/55/27): At this stage the soul is aware that the old body is dead and that it is through the pind daan offering by family members that a new body is created and relieved of any distress. This experience is conveyed through feelings and sentiments. The physical rites are only symbolic. These sentiments embrace the deceased.
On receiving pind daan the soul or deceased feels happy and content, and after giving blessings proceeds to Yamaloka in an improved situation.
It is believed that it was Brahma who first performed the pind daan ceremony in Gaya. Since then this tradition has continued. This is a step toward the reconstitution of a more substantial physical body (yatana ṡarīra) around the disembodied soul (preta) of the deceased. A tiny trench is dug in a ritually purified piece of land by a river, and the presence of Vishnu is invoked. Ten balls of barley flour mixed with sugar, honey, milk, curds, ghee, and sesame seeds are then placed, one by one, in the soil. As the first ball is offered, the priest says (and the son repeats after him), “May this create a head”; with the second ball, “May this create neck and shoulders”; with the third, “May this create heart and chest”; and so on. The 10th request is for the ball to create the capacity to digest, thereby satisfying the hunger and thirst of the newly created body.
The Kurma Purana (34/7-8) also explains: All forefathers appreciate a pilgrimage to Gaya by their successors. Once the Pind Daan is performed in Gaya, one achieves liberation. One becomes free of rebirth. If one visits Gaya even once and offers Pind Daan to the forefathers, they become free from hell and other dreadful destinations and achieve salvation.
The Kurma Purana also explains that whoever goes to Gaya for Pind Daan is blessed and seven generations from the paternal and maternal side are benefited along with the personal self who achieves liberation.