Funeral Rites among Savage Races
Theosophist, August, 1883
Editor’s Note by H.P.B. on a letter responding to previous remarks.
In your note to the letter on “The Efficacy of Funeral Ceremonies” (see The Theosophist, June 1883, p. 221), you remark “that very few among the so-called savage primitive races, had or have any funeral rites or ceremonies.”
Allow me to point out that the aborigines of the Chota Nagpur plateau have a very ancient custom of erecting large blocks of unhewn stone in memory of their “departed dead.”
These pillars vary in height from 5 to 15 feet.
I append hereto a rough copy of some at a village called Pokuria, 4 miles south of Chaibassa, the highest of which is 8 feet 4 inches above ground. Vide Col. Dalton’s Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal, p. 203.
Editor’s Note. [H.P.B.]—We are sorry to be unable to reproduce the sketch of the said pillars. But we would observe to our amiable correspondent, that in saying that “very few among the savage primitive races had or have any funeral ceremonies,” we were not thinking of the monoliths, and memorial stones placed on their tombs. The latter cannot be classed with either “rites,” or “ceremonies,” but belong to the various modes of disposing of the dead, and preserving the memory of the seat where they were buried. They entail none of that extravagant expenditure lavished by the Hindus and Parsees as well as by the Roman Catholics and Greeks upon obsequial ceremonies in which human variety forces them to outvie each other in the eyes of their indifferent neighbours, and to satisfy the lucre of their Brahmins and priests, under the alleged penalty of offending their dead—a superstition worthy of, and pardonable in, savages, but wholly unworthy and as unpardonable in the 19th century, and among civilized nations.